Two STELLAR Writers Share Their Different Thoughts On Emigration

Why one is staying and one is going

It’s starting to look a bit like 2010 again. As thousands of young Irish people leave for pastures new because they simply can’t afford to live here anymore. Here, Adele Miner, 27 and Denise Curtin, 28, explain their choices.

Adele says… 

As Irish people, emigration is in our blood. Over 6 million of us fled to the US alone in the 1800s to avoid starvation. It’s estimated that between 9-10 million people born in Ireland have emigrated over the last 250 years. In fact no other country in Europe has been affected by emigration in the last 2 centuries like the way Ireland has. Our scattering is clear to see through the Irish Diaspora. Every American you come across claims Irish heritage of some sort, and you’ll find an Irish bar in any city you visit in the world. We’ve left our stamp on anywhere we’ve been. My favourite piece of Irish Diaspora trivia is that the Scouse phrase ‘Ta-ra’ – meaning goodbye, comes from the Irish ‘Tabhair Aire’ – meaning ‘take care’, which was spread by Irish immigrants in Liverpool. Hearing my own, very-much-scouse family in Liverpool use the phrase when waving me off reminds me of just how connected we all are. 

Though now we face nothing close to the hardships of our poor ancestors, still today Irish people and emigration are very much entwined. We all have a cousin or uncle in some part of the world who facetimes in on special occasions. It’s almost a rite of passage to move abroad, at least for a year or so in search of pastures new and a story to tell. But what happens when you just don’t want to? As a young person today, to live in a country that you love, but who doesn’t love you back is difficult. It might seem second nature for the paddys to hop on a ferry and sow some wild oats, but that doesn’t mean we’re obliged to do it. I’m from Dublin, and it hurts me to live in a city that’s constantly trying to push me out. Between the soaring cost of living, the rental crisis and the very real possibility that I may never own property, it feels like there’s little keeping me in Dublin, and Ireland in general. I’ve watched my friends disappear from around me, moving abroad in search of a better quality of life. One day myself and my boyfriend had a conversation about our social lives. We noticed neither of us had been socialising half as much as we used to, and while we put it down to getting older and our priorities shifting, there was a pretty obvious reason for it. It came down to the fact that both of our separate friend groups have taken a massive hit from immigration. We went from being 20 with an unlimited supply of people to text if we fancied meeting up, to 27 and pining for friends to come back home for a visit so we could have a catch-up. 

As much as I understand why my friends flee the country at the first chance they get, I don’t feel that doing the same thing is the right choice for me. I’ve always been a home bird. I enjoy exploring as much as the next person. I’ve had a couple stints traveling abroad for a month or so at a time, but by week 3 I’m always relieved to know I’ll be heading back home soon. I love adventure but I love familiarity more. I know the best charity shops to pick up a bargain, and exactly where to go if I’m craving a good pint of Guinness (It’s Grogans btw). It’s the place that generations of my family before me have inhabited. Both my Nana and my Grandad were as Dub as they come. My Nana grew up on East Wall with her 19 (yes, as in one nine!!) siblings, and my Grandad came from Maryland in The Liberties, just a stone’s throw from my office now. Both of them have since passed, but I still feel so connected to them walking the very streets that they once did all those years ago. 

Ireland is my home. My family is here, my life is here, and I want my future to be here too. I feel so much anger toward a system that’s set up to make this country inhabitable for younger people. I want to hear my future children speak with a little Dublin accent, and I want to socialise with my friends in a real Irish bar in Ireland, not a counterfeit one somewhere on the other side of the world. That’s not to say that if you do choose to move abroad that you’re abandoning your Irishness. I may one day be forced to bite the bullet and uproot, and I don’t see myself becoming any less patriotic if that does happen. But for now, I’m staying put, for as much as Ireland might want to me out, I’m hunkering down and making a go of it here. We have the best potatoes, and the freshest air, and the most craic. I don’t want to leave that.

Denise says…

CSO figures from the past year report the highest level of emigration since 2017, with 59,600 people leaving Ireland in search of a new start and a new life elsewhere. The reasoning? I think we all know. Earlier this year, Dublin was named as one of the top 10 most expensive cities to live in across the world, with not-so-surprisingly the second-highest average monthly rent and fourth-highest cost of living, coming behind London, Seoul and Paris. This study follows the recent news from Daft.ie that the average monthly rent in Ireland is €1,567, up 11.7% since 2021, while the average age of a first-time buyer is ever increasing as the vast majority of young people are locked out of the housing market. A depressing topic of conversation, but unfortunately the reality for many.

In October of this year, I’m moving to Australia. After five years of watching my rent in Dublin skyrocket, living in a separate city to my boyfriend and sobbing goodbye as some of my favourite pubs and clubs have been steadily chipped away and replaced with multinationals and wait – another hotel? I feel my romance with the city coming to a close however unlike the cheesy love stories, our reasoning for ending is you, not me. Once upon a time the idea of living abroad seemed like something other people did, but when I hit my twenties, it slowly infiltrated my friend group. Hearing people move away was no longer the odd friend of a friend, but close friends, dear friends, and it’s heartbreaking.

But you can’t deny that our capital city is changing around us. We might adore the culture and the pints, but the creative hubs are getting bulldozed and the pints are costing a fair penny of the little pennies we have. As Adele said, we live in a city we love, but nowadays, it doesn’t feel like it loves us back. For me, moving away was a very tough decision and one which I can tell you, I’ve lost a lot of sleep over (the grey hairs have multiplied) but ultimately, I just can’t shake this creeping feeling of exhaustion. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, or maybe it’s the city around me. Either way, I’ll soon find out when I call a new place home and hope that Ireland hears our cries and when I come back, it’s the only place I’ll want to stay.

You can follow all of Denise’s travels, fears and new beginnings in her new monthly column starting next month in STELLAR.

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