Emigrant Isle: The Irish National Experience and Hopes for Community

With decades of political instability and chronic under-development in the countryside, Ireland’s experiences with debt crisis mirror that of others around the world.  Waves of instability in the 1980s and now again in 2008 were mitigated with European credit, but how might the Irish sort through their own history in search of ethnic compassion?  BBC reporter Joe Lynam comments on how credit booms, period influxes of labor immigration and debt have sordid outcomes for the Irish psyche.  Financial despair often breeds racial tension a midst competition for fewer jobs but might Ireland’s experiences create greater multicultural empathy?


                Now, immigrants and nonimmigrants alike suffer in solidarity, with many communities beginning to erode once again in diaspora fashion- with unemployment at 15% and a crashing GDP (Gross Domestic Product), Ireland has once again become the emigrant isle.  The affect felt by those who have stayed behind is that of broken communities, especially in the countryside and in small towns that have now been peppered by vacant houses and departed businesses.  With heavy hearts, many people leave, yet Ireland’s trends of emigration are the only thing that has kept unemployment down.  The term ‘economic sustainability’ has been a myth in Ireland since independence, where people have been thrown through cycles of economic hardships for generations.  Even those employed have found that their wages have not increased to expectations, or even with the cost of living; as a result, many innovators have found cause for leaving despite having home-grown their own businesses.

While viewed as a developed country, high rates of emigration, debt, poverty, and under-development (especially in rural areas) mirrors many experiences of people from the third world.  Arguably the only thing that has kept Ireland out of this category is major propping-up by the EU, small population and reasonable geography.  Ireland has also been a major resettlement area for refugees entering the EU from war-torn countries.  Cities such as Dublin, Cork, and Limrick have also been large hubs for immigrant workers, many of whom attempt to naturalize and stay.  How can community connections be formed over generations between demographic groups if the people in the community are forced to leave?  Ireland’s economic sustainability and future may be the foundation for which community formations between peoples may be sustained, or is emigration empathy one of the instigators for multi-ethnic compassion?  As an island previously torn by war, economic instability, and debt, the Irish may have a keener insight for community lost.


  -Bridget Healy


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