Em­i­gra­tion a New Year’s re­al­ity for many

Bray People - - COMMENT - FR BRIAN WHE­LAN

AS USUAL around this time we look back and we look for­ward – back at the year that has been and for­ward to the new year that’s about to un­fold. What will this New Year bring? Un­der­stand­ably there’s a lot of trep­i­da­tion and worry among peo­ple for the year ahead, with the en­dur­ing eco­nomic cri­sis and the se­vere the bud­gets em­a­nat­ing from Le­in­ster House.

Just when we think things cant pos­si­bly get any worse, we then re­al­ize that the year of the ‘un­lucky 13' is upon us and we be­gin to think that this year can't go by fast enough! Even the mo­tor in­dus­try has ac­knowl­edged that and suc­cess­fully lob­bied the government to change the sys­tem for car num­ber plates so that peo­ple won’t be put off buy­ing new cars.

Su­per­sti­tions like that will al­ways be part and par­cel of our cul­ture I sup­pose. Christ­mas shop­ping was strange this year – ac­cord­ing to news re­ports, there seemed to be just as much spend­ing be­ing done as ever be­fore, de­spite the fact that peo­ple have less money than be­fore? It seems an odd phe­nom­e­non.

Christ­mas is a great time to catch up with friends and rel­a­tives. I was de­lighted to catch up with one such friend that I hadn’t seen since be­fore the Sum­mer. This guy was a friend from my col­lege days, we played hurl­ing to­gether in col­lege and be­came good friends. I of­fi­ci­ated at his wed­ding a cou­ple of years ago and he has a child at this stage now too.

He was telling me that him­self and his wife are ex­pect­ing their sec­ond child in June so they’re very ex­cited about that – in­deed the ‘ex­pec­tant dad’ is ev­ery bit as full of the joy­ful an­tic­i­pa­tion and ex­cite­ment as mum is.

Ev­ery­thing seems so won­der­ful, and it is, but it’s a happy story that’s also tinged with angst. A few months ago my friend was forced to em­i­grate to Aus­tralia to find work. He had been through col­lege, got him­self a good de­gree in en­gi­neer­ing and even got him­self a masters af­ter­wards. He found a good job but no sooner had he got it, than it was gone in the ‘ bust’. He’d mar­ried, he’d nat­u­rally bought a house, but now he couldn’t af­ford the mort­gage.

His only op­tion was to em­i­grate, leav­ing his wife and child be­hind, so that he could pro­vide for his fam­ily. He ar­rived home on Christ­mas eve, and heads back out to Aus­tralia on Jan­uary 2. His ex­pec­tant wife and his child will again re­main here in Ire­land, and he plans on coming home in June for the birth of their sec­ond child.

This a re­al­ity that many oth­ers are liv­ing with too. We don’t think about the pos­si­bil­ity of such a hor­ri­ble way for a young newly mar­ried cou­ple to have to live, un­til we hear about it or see it first hand.

IN 2013 I hope that our coun­try turn around again. I really hope that the government has plan, and not just a sound-bite, to get peo­ple work­ing again. It seems at the moment that their plan is that peo­ple, like my friend and count­less oth­ers, will sim­ply em­i­grate.

Is it just a re­lief for the state-fi­nances that an­other po­ten­tial dole re­cip­i­ent is not a bur­den on the state if they leave the coun­try? Maybe they’re just happy that peo­ple are em­i­grat­ing be­cause the re­sult is that the num­ber on the ‘ live reg­is­ter’ is fall­ing, and un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures are down.

The true re­al­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is that there are thou­sands of Ir­ish abroad who are still our un­em­ployed, who don’t fea­ture on the statis­tics. But th­ese are our rel­a­tives, our neigh­bors, our friends, who are real peo­ple not statis­tics.

Th­ese are hon­est peo­ple who want to just get on with their lives and pro­vide for their fam­i­lies. 2012 hasn’t been very kind to them, let’s hope that in 2013 we might see bet­ter times.

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