Emigration on Politico about RTE

‘Departure Day’ – a bleak insight into Ireland’s new emigrants

Monday, 11 July 2011 23:41
Alan Moss

By Alan Moss

RTÉs latest insight into the woes of the departuring thousands provides a depressing outlook on the current situation faced by the youth of Ireland. Is it really necessary to air such a documentary, when the realities of emigration are so horribly evident in Irish society today?

Emigration has been on the increase in Ireland since the start of the economic recession, with emigrants relocating mainly to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It is a rare family in Ireland today that has not been in some way affected by the resurgence of emigration from Ireland. As a recent graduate myself, I am well acquainted with the necessity for a large proportion of my peers to leave Ireland in search of employment elsewhere. It is a long from the situation three or four years ago, when it was commonplace after finishing university to ‘go travelling’ to escape from the ennui and humdrum of daily life.

Today, the departure gates of Irish airports are awash with inconsolable families being torn apart by the government’s blasé approach to stopping the exodus. All this is known and is being experienced on a daily basis by such a large proportion of the population that one must wonder what RTÉ was aiming to achieve by airing their fly-on-the wall documentary Departure Day, which chronicled the desperation of Irish people about to emigrate.

The documentary was peppered with heartbreaking tales of families left destroyed, as people were forced into leaving by the lack of opportunity that has come to epitomise Ireland since 2008. I for one, who in the coming weeks will be saying goodbye to many classmates and friends, did not need a reminder of the bleakness of our current situation. In the hour-long programme, no new information or insights were offered to the viewer. Admittedly, I became more frustrated with the state of things, but the programme did not attempt to offer guidance or reassurance, rather it allowed itself to wallow in the current bleak outlook. Surely this is not the type of programming we need to be seeing on our national broadcaster right now.

Those of us who remain in Ireland, presumably would rather tune into something which focuses on the positives rather than the negatives. Why not have a documentary following the lives of those who have left and made successes of themselves in other countries? Why not focus on the thousands of emigrants who are happy in their new lives abroad and who, when the economy heals, aim to return to their homeland? At least that would be something different. It may have offered a glimmer of hope and might have been informative and comforting to the thousands of people who are about to leave, and their families who will remain behind.

Granted, RTÉ is not essentially the bad guy. One interesting scene in the documentary came at the very close, when those leaving the country expressed their discontent with how they had been treated by the Irish government. They, rightly, see themselves as a forgotten generation. The government is undeniably making a mistake in allowing so many
people leave our shores.

Economists agree that in order for Ireland to return to healthy economic stability and growth, a skilled and educated workforce is needed.The so called ‘knowledge economy’ which was to the fore in the general election campaigns seems to have been forgotten. As the documentary rightly pointed out, it seems that the powers that be are happy to see thousands of young people leaving. Why? Because they are leaving the live register – essentially, they are becoming someone else’s problem.

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Personally i think it really important for RTE to air programmes like these. Its is only by making things public conversation that things become unavoidable for those that hold power over us.

This isnt about relentless self pity, but putting markers down, speaking openly and honestly of the failings of a market system and representative democracy to provide the basic security for people to be able to live with their fmily and friends.

This situation is not an accident. It is the allto predictable culmination of specific political and economic choices made with the same religious fervour that 50 years ago see those in power lock up women for being women. The political and economic class, as well as their associated media class do not in anyway represent us. Thier monetary value system has no language to describe what is being done to communities, not just in Ireland, but in almost all countries around the globe. This is the reality we live in today.

However there is a responsibility on us to act in hope ourselves. When we start acting in ways consciously seek to end our insecurity and precarity, in ways the build resilience into our communities against attack by markets, that protect and value our commons and common goods instead of enclosing and selling of everything so it can have a profit margin for men in suits, then in sure RTE will be there.

But for RTE to record some common hope, hope that has no connection to resolving the roots of the systemic problem would actually be a diservice. Never more than now do we need honest and critical awareness not just of where we are, but in the long view who we are, and how we got here – not just in Ireland but globally.

We need some radical doubt. We need to be genuinely skeptical that returning to the ideology of ‘infinite growth’ on a finite planet. Such infinite growth is only infinte for some. We, the great majority, will clearly be hung out to dry, force to run around the planet looking for security. Luckily most of us have white skin which makes it pretty easier given the racist nature of most governments.

And yes we need hope. But it should not be wishy washy hope. Its needs to be militant hope, a hope that refuses the mantra of there is no other ways that this. I want to live in a world that consciously eradicates inequality of power, i want to live in a society that put democracy first rather than last. And Im happy to work with other for that