Minister’s emigration remarks ‘disingenuous’

John Perry, the junior jobs minister, has been heavily criticised after he declared people were "emigrating by choice".

Opposition TDs said his remarks were offensive and disingenuous.

Representatives for the unemployed also raised questions about the number of jobs being created after Mr Perry said he knew people who were "delighted" to be emigrating to the US and Canada for work.

Speaking in the Dáil during questions on jobs, the Sligo–North Leitrim TD said: "There are people emigrating by choice. I know several young people who will be quite delighted to go to the United States if they can get in, or to Canada if they have the required qualifications."

Opposition TDs said most workers would be happier at home. But Mr Perry added: "There is certain balance. For highly educated people, emigration was a matter of choice."

He said the Government was doing its best to sort out the economy but "one cannot just wave a magic wand".

Sinn Féin jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín criticised the comments, saying: "Most emigration is forced emigration."

He said emigration was splitting up families, adding: "Significant milestones in life, such as birthdays, First Holy Communions, and even weddings, happen thousands of miles away from grandparents.

"It is astonishing that a minister in the Department of Jobs is that detached from reality to claim that those emigrating do so from personal choice.

"The Government must act to disassociate themselves from this offensive position."

Independent TD Mick Wallace said it was "disingenuous" to say many were emigrating by choice.

A spokesman for the department would not say if Richard Bruton, the jobs minister, shared Mr Perry’s opinion.

Bríd O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed said: "People of all age groups are emigrating because there’s no work here.

"We’ve lost an awful lot of jobs. I think a lot are leaving because they feel they have to."