Wall Street Journal turns its eye to Ireland as emigration returns

Two weeks ago, it was Michael Lewis writing for Vanity Fair. Today, the Wall Street Journal turns its eye to Ireland.

Guy Chazan is the international energy correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and as far as we can tell, an Englishman, so the bible of American high finance sent him on a trip across the Irish Sea to have a look at the neighbours.

Guy wound up in Carlow, where he found a depressingly familiar picture. A 62 year old father with two children abroad and a third about to leave, himself considering emigration to Australia. Mindnumbing statistics, ESRI predictions of 100,000 people leaving this year and next. That’s about one thousand people every week. One in fifty people will leave by the end of 2012. That’s about five towns the size of Carlow, or twice the population of the county.

A more traditional view of Ireland. © Faduda

And of course, just because they leave, doesn’t mean things get easier for those left behind. The banks are still here, their maws open, ever hungry for more funding. And with all those young people leaving, there will be little demand for new housing, so the building industry will stay in the doldrums.

That 62 year old we mentioned earlier? His name is Martin Lynch, and he’s a second generation emigrant. His father went to London in 1924, returning in the 1950s. Martin himself left in 1966, and ended up in the British Army, before returning to Ireland, working in oil and gas exploration, and spending most of the 1980s on the dole.

Martin Lynch’s children reflect the diversity of talent lost to Ireland through emigration. Eoin (29) is a college graduate, now studying in Germany to be a school teacher. Damien (28) is an aeronautical engineer, working with a British firm in northern England. Clare (24) is a fully qualified pediatric nurse, stuck in temporary agency jobs because of the HSE’s hiring freeze. They epitomise the brain drain hitting the economy.

But it’s not just college graduates who are leaving. In a local hotel, Chazan spoke to a mechanic, who explained that many of his friends from the building trades had gone to London. This year, they’ve got work there as the capital prepares for the 2012 Olympics. Next year, who knows?

Time was when correspondents came to Ireland for a bit of colour, writing about the land of emerald fields, red haired colleens, and quaint cottages. The reports, often seen as patronising and lazy, frequently led to grumblings from the natives. Chazan’s article is frank, honest, and contains some scary numbers, but it’s still depressing to think the colour features of old are being replaced by accounts of a nation once again taking the mail train to Holyhead — or the Ryanair to Dresden.