This is my country, and I am not leaving.
I’m not a great patriot, nor even a Republican.
I’m not from a farming background; I haven’t read Peig Sayers; I’ve never been out in the bog.
I was too young to be working for most of the Celtic Tiger years, and my family lived on one income for most of them.
I do not know what the Tiger looked like and I did not hear it roar.
I drink coffee; I have an iPhone; I have a job in the ‘meeja’. I have a nice car. I have a nice life. But it is not a moneyed life.
I make my own coffee; my iPhone is a cast-off from a wealthier friend; my car is nearly ten years old; and my job, though I love it, is not well paid.
My best friend from college lives in London. My best friend from school lives in Australia.
Two weeks ago, when the PriceWaterhouseCooper ‘story’ broke, internationally, my friend in London emailed me.
“Another awful story coming from Ireland. They are just pathetic.”
“They”, meaning “the Irish”. She is almost ashamed, now, to tell people where she comes from. She works in the City of London, and is surrounded daily by ridicule of our pathetic financial situation, our morally bankrupt politics and the bringing low of our once high-flying economy.
She has a law degree and a masters degree in PR. She is one of the highly educated workforce that is lost to our future.
One week ago, when the IMF were, then weren’t, then were, then weren’t, then were, taking over the budgetary strategy of my country, my friend in Australia emailed me.
“I want all the news! But not about the economy, thanks. I don’t want to know why I can’t come home.”
She has a chemistry degree and a master’s degree in chemistry. She is another of the highly educated workforce that is lost to our future. She followed every bit of advice about the knowledge economy; she has experience of working in the world’s top three pharmaceutical companies thanks to her excellent education; and she is in Australia because there is nothing for her here. She wanted to go for a year, maybe two. Six months in she has realised that it will be a long time before she comes home.
I was a student representative towards the tail end of the boom. Of the other five motivated, ambitious, articulate people who sat on that committee with me, three are in Australia. One has returned to her native Poland. My last comrade standing will leave Ireland for India in January.
These people are the doers – where will we be when all of them have left?
I am from a rural village where our GAA team is doing well for the first time that I can remember. This is a great thing, but the reason?
Most of the boys I went to school with are at home, and not working. It is wonderful that they are turning to sport rather than drink to take up their time, but it’s unlikely this will last forever.
I asked one of them, who is still working (in a factory which is earmarked for closure, and letting people go every week), why his friends hadn’t left.
Where would they get the money? Good point. It costs thousands of euro to go to Australia, and there isn’t much employment for unskilled workers any closer than that. They didn’t go to college, and worked in the construction trade in its dying days.
They were breakfast roll man, and now they are at home living with their parents in the houses they grew up in. When we were in primary school, there were 18 children in my class. Out of that 18, not even half of our fathers had jobs.
We’ve been here before. Yes, there are difference; we’re billions in debt and the international community is by turns laughing at us and outraged at having to bail us out of greed and stupidity of a few bankers.
You could be forgiven for thinking that yesterday’s four year plan was strategically designed as a kick in the arse out the door for my generation.
Those who aren’t gone already will have their wages cut (again); lose any tax breaks that are left; pay more for college; and have their social welfare cut.
We didn’t benefit from the boom. Many of us didn’t vote for Fianna Fáil. But we are being punished for the greed of our parents’ generation and an elite few.
It’s time for our generation to stand up. Leadership is needed, and the generation in power have completely failed us. They will not be paying for these mistakes for the rest of their working lives; we will. Those of us who are left.
Because, like I said, I’m not leaving.
I’m not leaving, because this is my home.
I’m not leaving, because I have done nothing wrong.
I’m not leaving, because I have worked hard to get where I am.
I’m not leaving, because I have not gambled recklessly with my finances and those of my country.
I’m not leaving, because my country needs me.
I’m not leaving, because our country needs our generation.
I’m not leaving, because it’s the people who stay who shape what a country becomes.
I’m not leaving, because we are the ones who can stop this from happening again.
I’m not leaving, because I don’t want my children to have to leave.
Deirdre O’Shaughnessy is editor of the Cork Independent newspaper, Cork’s largest circulating free weekly newspaper and a regular contributor to Newstalk 106-108fm. She blogs about society, politics, and media at http://www.deshocks.wordpress.com and makes up for a very short attention span with youthful exuberance, sometimes.