Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The Ryanair Generation

My generation who started out as the ‘Celtic Tiger Kids’ have become known as the ‘Ryan air Generation’. Factors such as the economic downturn and lack of opportunities in our country have forced many skilled workers that are fathers, mothers, sons and daughters to leave the comfort of their birthplace to search in foreign places for new opportunities.

This is becoming all too common in our society and although people may call it the ‘norm’ it still has a huge emotional impact on these individual’s families.

At a recent seminar in the University of Limerick Ciaran O’ Donnell said “You see parents and they believe their children will be gone for a generation”. Their children leave to find job opportunities but as well as employment they may find solace as they settle and make a permanent life for themselves starting their own careers and maybe even families.

On the Union of Students website there was an alarming discovery that figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed a dramatic rise in the number of people emigrating. From 2006 to 2010 the number has risen by 81.05%, this is the highest level it has been at since 1989.

Brian Mannion, Fiona Gilligan, Jonathan Mc Inerny and Lisa Creavan are to name but a few people just a few years older then me that have left their homes to travel to England, Australia and America. To most they are little more than a statistic but to their families they are the oldest sons and daughters, role models to their younger and older siblings that had to leave in hope of a better future somewhere else.

Last week I carried out a vox pop among University of Limerick first years, they were asked had they any family members who have emigrated and how it has affected them, if they would consider emigrating themselves and how that would affect their family.

Cristin O’ Connor whose brother moved to Australia said, “my parents really miss him but we know he’s happy out there”. Thomas Stamp’s uncle is also in Australia he said “my dad misses him around the house he’d do odd jobs and he was good company for him”.
Sean Byrne said “I don’t see any chances of getting any job after college so I am going to have to emigrate to find one else where”. John Conneally “my family look to me for advice without me they might not have someone to talk to or not know what to do”. These individuals portray a bleak acceptance for their families.

Brian Mannion immigrated last March to England to work with his uncle’s contracting company, as he was unable to find any work here. He returned in December to complete his next phase with FÁS, however it ended last week and he has his flights booked to go back to England. In an interview with him last week he came across excited to be returning as he has a new life there. He claimed “ I know my family is going to be lost without me again but I have work out there and new friends so I am settled and happy”.

Should families be content with this constellation? Or is it perfectly okay for them to mourn this loss of a child to emigration? Agnes Mannion, Brian’s mother maintained “I am happy for him as long as he’s happy but its impossible not to wish he could stay at home, without him there’s an empty space at the table that can’t be filled”.

To get a different angle on this topic I included in my vox pop an Erasmus student from America. Meryl Duff is in Limerick studying for six months she said “I miss my parents, its difficult to communicate so I have only really talked to my mom. I miss home, sometimes at the weekends I wish I could go home for a home cooked meal and to do my laundry”.

From these interviews its obvious the impact on the families when a member emigrates is hard to cope with. Although the individual that emigrates can be happier away from home they will get days when they’re home sick and just want to see their family.

Since Ireland was plunged into economic recession in 2007 there have been many unpleasant changes that we as the people of Ireland have had to deal with. Losing the generation that should be carrying this country into the future has to be the harshest. Without a generation that we need to build the future how will Ireland move on?

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