I have lost count of how many of my peers have left Ireland in search of a brighter future. Childhood friends, work colleagues, people I met in college and relatives have all fled the emerald isle. Their reasons vary.
The allure of a different, more fulfilling, lifestyle is, of course, a draw. Many flee in the hope that things might be better for them and their families. Some simply wish to travel and see the world. Some have found prosperity, love and happiness, yet yearn for the familiar comforts of home. Plenty have returned, but are left deflated and demoralised by what they find there.
The Irish Examiner recently ran an article by Dr Rory Hearne, a lecturer in political and economic geography at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, which dealt with the topic of emigration and how it has affected Irish society. In response to attempts from the political establishment to frame the worsening emigration trend as a positive, Dr Hearne aptly describes the trend as “the slow rotting of our communities” and criticises those in power for presiding over the rise of a ‘lost generation’.
It is, of course, perfectly natural for an individual to possess a desire to emigrate in a world that has become increasingly accessible. After all, travelling opens up new horizons and broadens the mind through experience of different cultures. Who wouldn’t want to see the myriad wonders and treats this amazing spinning globe has to offer?
However, when that desire is borne out of a widely held sense of desperation, then it is absolutely important to scrutinise the factors that have contributed to it. Hearne asserts that “it is not an exaggeration to say that [those in power] have imprisoned and sacrificed a generation of young people with the costs of austerity and the banking crisis.”
Indeed, one might say that many of the young people departing Ireland, north and south, are in effect refugees; they are victims of a crisis not of their own doing, desperately fleeing a deteriorating nation ravaged by horrible political and economic policies. This is not a war in the traditional sense, but it is a total assault on Irish society and emigrants are seemingly viewed as mere numbers to be massaged. Collateral damage, if you will.
The accumulation of bad decisions over the years by successive governments has resulted in a rudderless nation inhabited by overeducated, underemployed, debt-ridden individuals, who see little option but to disembark this forsaken island. These individuals listen as the establishment preaches from a position of privilege about the need for cuts to essential social services while big businesses exploit them and continue to reward themselves with outrageous salaries and bonuses.
What hope people may have had is surely dissipating. This is the damning legacy modern Ireland has to offer.
Due to my predilection for the work of Steve Coogan, I have become somewhat attuned to the special brand of irony exhibited by the character of Alan Partridge. So when I read that Channel 4 have commissioned a script for a comedy set during the famine, I immediately made the comparison.
However, I was not expecting the writer of the script to come out with something so blatantly Partridge-esque. Hugh Travers, an award-winning writer who wrote and researched the historical sports documentary ‘Green is the Colour’, apparently said in an interview with the Irish Times that in ‘Hungry’ he and his team are “kind of thinking of it as Shameless in famine Ireland.”
At first glance, it doesn’t seem so far-removed from the ludicrous pitches of Partridge such as ‘Youth Hostelling with Chris Eubank’ and ‘Cooking in Prison’.