“We’re Not Leaving” say young people against forced emigration

Tuesday 30 April 2013, 01pm

“There’s something fundamentally wrong with a society that’s more concerned about the flight of capital, than it is about the flight of its own children.”

Those were the sentiments of David Gibney from Mandate Youth at yesterday’s public meeting of young people against forced emigration in Wynnes Hotel, Dublin.

Mr Gibney was speaking about the politics of emigration where he informed the meeting of approximately one hundred young people that pro-emigration policies are not the only options available to our politicians.

He said, “Some people say that governments don’t create jobs, they create the conditions that create jobs. That raises the point that governments don’t force people into emigration, instead they create the conditions for emigration.

“Last week I watched a debate in the Dail where Fine Gael’s John Perry, who is a Minister of State, was asked about what his govt was doing to stop the 9 people emigrating from Ireland every hour. The Minister responded by saying he knew plenty of young people who are “quite delighted” to be leaving this country.

“He said it as if he had no concept that it is the policies that his party are pursuing and implementing that are the reason some people may be ‘delighted’ to be leaving.

“We hear politicians refer to emigration as a ‘lifestyle choice’. But they fully understanding that if they reduce your living standards to such a point that your lifestyle would be best served by going overseas, then why wouldn’t you make the ‘choice’ to go?

“And they do so with the comfort of knowing that unlike over one hundred other states around the world, Irish people who are forced to emigrate have no vote and no opportunity to hold those politicians accountable and no chance to elect a government that may put in place policies that will create opportunities to help bring them back home

He said: “Young people have been targeted during this economic crisis because we can emigrate easier and provide a safety valve for our economy. For instance, reduced rates for job seekers allowance for those between 18-21.

“Nurses and teachers are being asked to work for less than their older colleagues for doing the exact same job. This is not a new concept and it is happening in the private sector too. The very first time I spoke at a union conference was in 2006 and it was to voice my opposition to An Post’s plan to have all new postmen earning 12.5% less than the other workers.

“We’ve seen a rise in precarious employment and insecure jobs – but it’s mostly young workers who are in these jobs.”

“The attacks on young people’s living standards is continuing and getting stronger. Last week a report from the OECD recommended an increase in the retirement age in Ireland beyond the 68 years we’ve already had it increased to for our generation.

“Another report from Forfas two weeks ago recommended a reduction in the minimum wage for young workers below the age of 25."

Mr Gibney said politicians were forcing young people to make some very difficult decisions.

“Fully qualified nurses, for instance, have to decide if they will work for 20% less than they deserve and are entitled to, when that rate is already below the minimum wage in Australia.

“They have to decide between on the one hand better career progression, more opportunities, higher living standards and better wages in Australia, and on the other hand whether they are prepared to move thousands of miles from home leaving family and friends behind, missing birthdays, funerals, communions, confirmations and other major events, while at the same time being so far from home that if something bad were to happen, you can’t do anything about it or be there for your loved ones.”

He mentioned that his brother, who now lives in Perth, was caught up in the Christchurch earthquake which killed almost 200 people and left his brother and eight of his friends living on a double decker bus.

He said, “It’s important that we all remember that emigration is not always as glamorous as some people would have you believe. While there are thousands of young Irish people who are having a great time overseas, there are thousands more who are absolutely miserable. It’s just that they’re less miserable working in Australia, Canada or the USA than they would be if they were on the dole here.”

Mr Gibney added that there are alternatives and that emigration is not just a natural state of affairs for this country.

“Those in positions of power tell us there’s no alternative to the pro-emigration policies they’re implementing because we’re broke.

“But we’re not broke. We just choose not to make the wealthy pay their fair share, but if we did, then we could use that money to provide much better opportunities for younger workers by investing in infrastructure projects, training of young people and investing in labour intensive industries.

“The last time Ireland saw emigration levels like this was during the Great Hunger. Coincidently, during that period, business in Ireland was booming and we grew our exports massively– just like we did last year where our exports surpassed those of the Celtic Tiger era.”

"How can a country be broke and at the same time more than double the amount of billionaires it has? How can the top 10% of earners increase their wealth by 8% during a recession?"

He added that choices are being made on a weekly basis that are pro-emigration.

“When you hear about ‘choices’ in the emigration debate, think about the choices that are really being made.

“You probably heard last week that Richie Boucher from Bank of Ireland, a bank that has received taxpayers money, is earning €843,000 per year. If Mr Boucher took a pay cut to approximately €500,000, that’s still about €10,000 per week, we could use the difference to pay 62 nurses their full wage instead of a 20% reduced rate. That’s one banker versus 62 nurses who are being incentivized to emigrate. We chose the banker.”

Addressing the urgency of the need for debate on the effects of emigration, Mr Gibney said: “People need to wake up and realize that the reason their local GAA or soccer club can’t field a team is because of policies being implemented by our government.

“We need to join the dots and see that one of the reasons suicide is increasing is because social and family structures are being destroyed by emigration. And we have to understand, and help others to understand, that there is an alternative.”

Mr Gibney added, “Those in positions of power want our generation to work longer, for less pay, with a longer working week, in insecure jobs, with huge personal debt and paying off the entire principle of the banking debt that was never the Irish peoples in the first place. While at the same time the wealthy increase their wealth and bondholders and speculators are protected.

“Then they say, ‘ah sure, the young are making a ‘lifestyle choice’ and are ‘quite delighted’ to be emigrating’.”

Mr Gibney urged the attendees at the conference to fight back by joining their trade union and getting active. He said that even if you’re unemployed, like the 30% of young people today, there is still a place for you in the trade union movement which has unemployed memberships.

He concluded by saying, “I for one am sick of living in an economy instead of a society. We are a hard working nation. We go abroad anywhere in the world and we’re welcomed with open arms. It’s a sad situation that the only place we don’t seem to be welcome is our own country.

“I’m sick of being told we can’t tax the wealthy because they’ll, dare I say it, emigrate. I’m sick of being told that we can’t increase corporation tax because companies and capital will move overseas.

“There’s something fundamentally wrong with a society that’s more concerned about the flight of capital, than it is about the flight of its own children.

“I don't want to live in a country like that but as the name of this meeting suggests, I’m not going anywhere. So it’s up to us, as young people, to demand policies that will not only stop the flow of Irish citizens from emigrating, but also demand policies that will help create decent jobs for those already in exile and allow them to come back home.

The Youth Bloc of the Unfinished Business organisation, which organised last night’s meeting of young people, are marching tomorrow, May 1st 2013 for International Workers Day in Dublin and will be meeting at 6:45pm outside the Hugh Lane Gallery on Parnell Square.

Mandate will also have a presence at the May Day rally and we will be meeting at 6:45 in Mandate’s Head Office, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1. We encourage all members to attend.

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