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23 January 2012
This is the fourth part of a daily multi-part series of reports on Ireland taken from a single edition of the Irish Independent newspaper, that of 20 January 2012.
FAMILY FURY AS FINANCE MINISTER SAYS YOUNG EMIGRATE FOR LIFESTYLE
by Fionnan Sheahan, Brendan Keenan and Louise Hogan
Finance Minister Michael Noonan faces the wrath of thousands of families blighted by emigration after claiming that young people were leaving [Ireland] for “lifestyle reasons”.
In an extraordinary claim, he denied that the exodus of tens of thousands of people was purely down to our economy and unemployment levels.
Instead, he asserted that some people merely wanted to “see another part of the world”.
His comments sparked fury among families whose loved ones had to leave to find work – or face life here on the dole.
Mr Noonan also appeared to accept that emigration was here to stay, after saying that the Government should ensure that young people get the best education so they can get a good job when they emigrate.
“That’s life in modern Ireland and they have to do their best. I hope they are successful abroad,” he said…..
….last year Social Protection Minister Joan Burton claimed that going on the dole was a “lifestyle choice”.
The Irish Independent recently revealed that about 70,000 people, mostly in their 20s, emigrated last year to the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and Germany.
A recent decline in the Live Register [a official tally, update monthly, of the number of people registering for public benefits, including the unemployed] was blamed on emigration levels and another 40,000 Irish citizens are expected to emigrate in 2012.
Mr Noonan’s insensitive comments struck a raw nerve with families who just weeks ago waved emigrants off to foreign climes following Christmas reunions….his implication that many young people had a choice about whether to stay or to leave sparked most anger.
Mr Noonan said:”There are always young people coming and going from Ireland and some of them are emigrants in the traditional sense. Others simply want to get off the island for a while. You know, a lot of the people who go to Australia…it’s not being driven by unemployment at home, it’s driven by a desire to see another part of the world and live there.”
However, [Opposition] Fianna Fáil jobs spokesman Willie O’Dea said Mr Noonan should “immediately apologise” for his remarks.
He said:”Of course there are many young people who, after college, travel abroad. But there is an undeniable link between the high rate of unemployment and the number of people seeking work abroad.”
The Irish Independent cited the case of Ms Pauline Fay from Drumconrath, Co Meath.
Ms Fay…has seen a son and daughter emigrate to Australia in the past 16 months. She said Mr Noonan simply did not understand the dire straits rural communities were in, nor the pain of having children on the other side of the world.
“He is not in touch with the real Ireland,” Ms Fay said, adding that five other young people from the small village were planning to emigrate shortly.
The paper also interviewed Mr Patrick Conboy, who is studying for a masters in public law at the National University of Ireland in Galway.
Mr Conboy said that many of his friends had emigrated to London, Canada, Qatar and Australia in search of work. He told the newspaper: “My own personal experience and from talking to friends [is that] they have had no option but to emigrate.”
In an editorial, the Irish Independent said:“Quite clearly the economic downturn, which has resulted in the loss of at least 300,000 jobs over the past four years, is obliging large numbers to look for jobs abroad.”