Upon returning to my first lecture of my final year of studies in University College Dublin, my lecturer asked the room for a show of hands: “Who here plans to move out of Ireland after they graduate?” Of the 20 students, 19 hands went up. It’s a pretty damming assessment of the faith that young people have in Ireland.
I often find myself questioning what I have in Ireland that I can build on. As a 23-year-old, it’s not that much.
From extortionate rent to extortionate coffee, young people are being priced out of Ireland at every end of the scale. Young adults in Ireland start out their lives searching and scrambling for housing, transport, decent wages, with no support or trust from those in power.
There is a distinct lack of motivation from the big corporations and Government to keep graduates and young workers in Ireland. There is no incentive for young people to root themselves in Ireland and start a family or a career here.
After four years of pursuing a degree in Ireland, you ask yourself what value it actually has.
It feels as if, once those four years are up, young people just start at the bottom of another ladder. Unless you’re a well-connected individual or a hermit who does nothing but break their back for their job, you become just another person with just another degree.
The hard work is never acknowledged or rewarded with a job. In fact, young people are vilified.
‘Lazy’ is synonymous with young people in this country. What part of 65,000 Leaving Cert applicants per year is lazy? What part of 60% of the hospitality sector being 18-24-year-olds is lazy? These are the narratives a generation won’t forget, because ultimately it will drive them to countries where they feel respected and valued.
We’ve always had emigration. It’s been a part of Ireland for centuries. However, it’s different this time around. Ireland has never had such a well-educated group of young adults on its books. We’ve never been in such a position where multinationals are setting up to stay here either.
Why isn’t this Government doing everything they can to root these young, educated, and skilled workers on these shores?
Down the line, there will come another country with better tax breaks for these multinationals. There will come a time when this tech boom goes bust. There will come a time when a generation of young workers and graduates will be called upon to work and rebuild, but they won’t answer — not because of laziness, or their spite for treatment in early adulthood, but because they simply will not be here.
In the search for peace and reconciliation, heads of state, as well as elected politicians, have made important gestures to assist progress.
As president, Mary Robinson, on a visit to Northern Ireland in 1993, shook the hand of Gerry Adams — this was regarded as a “historic” gesture in the search for peace.
As the UK’s head of state, Queen Elizabeth has also made courageous gestures. In 2011, she attended a wreath-laying ceremony in Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance on the first day of her historic State visit. In what was described as a hugely symbolic gesture reflecting a new era in relations between the countries, the British monarch bowed her head as she laid a wreath at the memorial for those who died fighting for Irish freedom, before observing a minute’s silence.
In 2012, in a further spirit of reconciliation, she shook the hand of the former IRA commander Martin Mc Guinness, despite the fact that the IRA had murdered Lord Mountbatten, who was a member of the royal family.
They shook hands at a private meeting of seven people (including President Michael D Higgins and Northern Ireland first minister Peter Robinson) at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast. They later shook hands in public.
In 2015, her son, Charles, shook hands with Gerry Adams, who has always unapologetically justified the murder of Lord Mountbatten.
Gestures are important and all these gestures were warmly welcomed throughout Ireland at the time.
By accepting the invitation to attend a religious service organised by the four main churches in Ireland, President Higgins would have added to the many gestures he has already made in the search for reconciliation.
Former Leader Alliance Party
and Former Fine Gael MEP
The contretemps created by President Michael D Higgins declining an invitation to attend a religious service with Queen Elizabeth in Armagh’s St Patrick’s Cathedral, Church of Ireland, to commemorate the centenary of partition and the creation of Northern Ireland, reminds one of a famous story by Mark Twain after his visit to Armagh for the dedication of St Patrick’s Catholic Cathedral in 1883.
Former Fine Gael taoiseach John Bruton may have had Twain’s story in mind when he claimed there was an unfortunate tradition in and around Northern Ireland of “going out of your way to take offence”.
Twain writes in ‘Party Cries’: “About one-half of the people in Northern Ireland are Protestants and the other half Catholics. Each party does all it can to make its own doctrines popular and draw the affections of the irreligious toward them. One hears constantly of the most touching instances of this zeal.”
After the cathedral dedication, Twain describes that, when the Catholics started home again, “the roadways were lined with groups of meek and lowly Protestants who stoned them till all the region round about was marked with blood. I thought that only Catholics argued in that way, but it seems to be a mistake. Every man in the community is a missionary and carries a brick to admonish the erring with.”
Poet Lynn Doyle says the city of Armagh is where “heaven spills its brightest green on rounded hills and smiles impartial on two peoples…” This 21st century contretemps will not darken the impartial rays of heaven on the most beautiful hills in Ulster, where Patrick once preached and where Brian Boru now sleeps.
Robert F Lyons
In 1965 unionists objected to taoiseach Seán Lemass attending a meeting in Belfast with prime minister Terence O’Neill. Today, unionists object to President Michael D Higgins not attending a meeting with church leaders and the queen in Armagh.
It’s too early to tell if this is significant progress by unionists.
The following might resolve the present political controversy surrounding political attendance at the religious service commemorating the partition of Ireland. I propose a cross-community yacht race from Crosshaven to Carlingford (storm in tea cup optional), followed by an eco-friendly cross-border slow bicycle race to Armagh (sashes and berets also optional), finishing with a dehydrating high dudgeon jumping competition in the Cathedral car park.
This triathlon’s leading politician would then be eligible to formally represent us at the religious service itself.
My money’s on Katherine Zappone — she’s quick at everything, frequently sets the bar herself, and can moralise with the best of them.
As John Dryden was fond of saying: “Great wits are sure to Coveney near allied, and thin partitions do their bounds divide.”
In the meantime, let’s all just try to do a little bit better at getting along.
Once again as budget time approaches, we hear talk of a €5-a-week increase for pensioners. FIVE euros. What an insult, taking into account increases that have occurred.
Yet our self-serving politicians have no problem increasing their own income (including local councillors) and, on occasion, creating well-paying (including allowances and perks) positions for friends and acquaintances.
Although a pensioner, I am not in receipt of an Irish Government pension.
If I was, I would tell those politicians where to put the €5 — and it would not be into a Post Office savings account.
Michael A Moriarty
The Department of Finance says that age-related costs to the State, which has an ageing population, are a matter of growing concern. Fair enough. Suggested remedies are raising the State pension age from 65 to 68 or 69, or even 70.
While I would have strong reservations about the above, I accept the principle of the department being ever alert to costs to the State and the necessity of taking remedial action.
Why then turn a blind eye to the fact that a privileged group, members of the Oireachtas, can determine their own salaries, expenses, pensions etc, all of which are costs to the State, without any outside control?
Surely, on principle, a small independent body should be set up to control these costs, subject to regulation by the Central Bank of Ireland?