The following opinion piece was written by Tommy McKearney and looks at the issue of emigration caused by todays growing levels of unemployment in Donegal. Tommy Mckearney is a former IRA member, blanketman and hunger striker who now works as an organiser with the Independent Workers Union and as a freelance journalist.
The Curse of Emigration is the Curse of Poor Governance
Not so long ago Donegal experienced the agony of a devastating road tragedy that took eight lives. Innishowen was in shock and its people’s pain was obvious to all. Few happenings have such a powerful impact as multiple deaths occurring in a close-knit rural community. It is a very natural reaction and the hurt of sudden parting takes time to heal.
Other painful partings, albeit not so tragic or final, are again beginning to visit the homes of Donegal. The old spectre of emigration is once more emerging to take the young men and women of the towns and parishes of the county to far away places. As Donegal knows only too well, many, indeed most who go, rarely return to stay. Old men and women are left with memories of children whose lives are lived out across the oceans and with only occasional glimpses of grand children they will never see grow to adulthood.
The live register is rising almost monthly (currently standing at 13.7% according to CSO) and a baldly stated statistic of a certain percentage unable to find work fails to tell the full tale of Donegal’s plight. The national average is just that; an average figure taken across the entire state. It disguises the reality that in remote, rural areas the actual percentage is not only much higher but will remain so for longer than in urban east coast towns.
The ESRI has said that 150,000 will leave over the next two years and that this may not be the end of the flight. The is little doubt that unemployment black spots such as Donegal will lose a disproportionate number of its young in this migration of the post Celtic Tiger generation.
Nor do prospects for most of those going abroad look tempting. The traditional destinations for Irish emigrants are also suffering the impact of a debilitating global recession. Britain is slashing its budget expenditure and while it may balance its books there is no prospect of an economic upturn in the UK in the foreseeable future and certainly no employment boom. The United States is in a similar position with its economy in long-term decline.
A recent article in the Financial Times Weekender magazine highlighted the true extent of US difficulties, reporting that working class income there had remained essentially static since 1973. The impact of this has been enormous. Ordinary Americans are no longer able to purchase all the goods the country is capable of making, leading in turn to ever increasing unemployment and underemployment. With many Americans forced to double or even triple job to remain solvent, there is only need for migrant labour in the poorest paid, most onerous work places.
With the Irish economy in free fall and little sign of real recovery on the way, emigration from areas such as Donegal is destined to remain a major issue into the foreseeable future unless that is, we force through a fundamental restructuring of how this country is managed and its wealth distributed. Unless we do so the agony of parting with loved ones will remain a constant sore for decades to come.