Friday, September 27, 2013

The Flight Of The Best And Brightest Earls

Emigration has long been a part of Irish life. You could point to the Flight of the Earls, when the great chiefs of Ireland escaped to Spain in 1607, after losing the Battle of Kinsale to the British invaders. The old form of social order, with clans ruled by chiefs, was gone for good and things would never be the same. It would take another four hundred years to get out from under British rule, and even now the English control six of Ireland's counties.

The enormous outflow of people during Black '47 is legendary, and there again, Ireland lost a huge piece of its population. They say the nation has yet to recover, with fewer people on the island today than there were before the potato blight wiped out millions.

Even after the worst of the famine, Irish men and women left their homes for more opportunity and chances for advancement. Many found success in America, and then set about exporting rebellion to aid those they left behind. But they themselves did not go back.

On into the Twentieth Century, there was a continous outflow of those who wanted to achieve but could not get ahead in a backward country. It was the young who left, those with the energy and stamina to endure the difficulties of making a new life in a strange place. Armed with an education, they brought their gifts to other places, like America or Canada or Australia or England, and the investments made by Irish taxpayers were lost, to benefit foreign countries.

A large swath of Ireland's youth emigrated in the 1970s and 1980s, so many of the best and brightest that songwriter Liam Reilly took notice. He wrote a song about it, a song that laments the exodus. The repercussions of that exodus are being felt strongly today, with the parents of the emigrants now too old to care for themselves, and too old to move away to join their children. The nursing homes are forever short of beds, and the government is left to care for them.

History is repeating itself.

A recent study from University College Cork has found that Ireland's best and brightest are on the move yet again,  taking their taxpayer-funded educations and talents with them. Approximately 62% of recent emigrants had a third-level education.

It's the same old story. Young people grow up, work hard in school, and then discover that there is nothing much for doing in their homeland. The jobs aren't there. The opportunity isn't there. They look to the future and see nothing waiting for them.

So they go elsewhere. And once they've settled in to their new home, and started in on raising a family, they don't go back.

The concern lies in the future outlook, one in which there are not enough doctors because they left after they got their medical degrees. There will not be enough skilled tradesmen to build new things because they lit out for Australia and Canada. The same holds true for any other profession, from accountants to bankers. All that will be left are the uneducated, those without drive to improve themselves and so, without the drive to improve their country. Businesses won't locate their international headquarters in a sleepy backwater lacking an educated population to fill jobs, and so Ireland could slide back into poverty.

Another bloody Flight of Earls.

No comments: