Over the last five years, not a week has gone by where I haven’t come across a Facebook airport check-in or Snapchat story from a former schoolmate, neighbour or relative, saying “slán abhaile” to their native Ireland, in search of better prospects and opportunities abroad. Whether their destination be Germany, the US, Australia or Dubai, each farewell is met with the exact same reaction from the majority of their family and friends, who remain firmly rooted on Irish soil – “isn’t it such an awful shame?”. While most people will feel pity and despair for those ‘forced’ to flee Ireland in search of a brighter future, I can’t help but feel a little..no, scrap that..very envious, of the magical, invigorating journey that lays ahead of them.
You see, to the perplexity and horror of most people around me, nothing excites me more than the thought of leaving Ireland indefinitely within the next 5-7 years, and yes, I have put a huge amount of consideration into that decision. Was it easy? Not necessarily. Is it the right one? Absolutely. When I share this decision with others, many of their initial reactions consist of the assumption that I’m leaving my homeland solely for what other countries can offer, which of course is correct to a certain extent. However, the main reasoning behind my decision is that I’m leaving because of what Ireland can’t offer me – freedom, hope and room to grow. Isle of hope, isle of dreams? The reality couldn’t be further from that today.
While the blissful climates, breathtaking landscapes and captivating cultures of Europe, America and Asia are without a doubt aspects I’m itching to discover and immerse myself in, they aren’t, and never will be the primary reason that I leave Ireland forever. That decision was made when I finally came to the rather heartbreaking realisation that during my lifetime, Ireland will never be a country where a person’s right to freedom and equality is granted nor respected.
I will never live in an Ireland where its most genuine, honest, hard working citizens are treated with respect and their best interests put first and foremost by their government leaders. I will never live in an Ireland where women are granted full medical control over their own bodies and the decisions surrounding them. I will never live in an Ireland where the Catholic Church doesn’t dictate to and abuse its people, regardless of their loyalty to them. I will never live in an Ireland where I, the youth, am given the opportunities I deserve, to develop, grow and achieve. So why, can you tell me, would I want to raise children or grow old in an Ireland like that?
On countless occasions, high-powered members of the Irish government have expressed their “sadness and regret” at the growing number of young citizens leaving our shores in search of a promising future, yet, it’s the actions (or lack of) of these ignorant, selfish individuals that have driven them to do so in the first place. Earlier this year, we commemorated and celebrated the brave, patriotic actions of all those who fought for Ireland in the 1916 Rising, yet just a hundred years later, this country is exhibiting traits that these heroes would be nothing but ashamed of.
A country run on a never-ending web of lies spun by a ‘leadership’ that can’t even represent their people, never mind fight for them. A country where the interests of its most vulnerable and in need are neglected, dictated by ancient laws that haven’t been revised since long before the births of anyone they’re actually effecting. Modern Ireland? A democracy? The Ireland we live in today is far from what our heroes of 1916 fought for or expected for us 100 years on, and it isn’t an Ireland I want to live in for any longer than I absolutely have to.
Don’t get me wrong, in no way am I not proud to be Irish. No matter where I end up on this planet, I will never be afraid or ashamed to share my heritage and roots with those I meet. I’ll speak with pride about the courageous actions of our bravest heroes and I’ll boast, to anyone who will listen, about each and every fellow Irish person who has made a difference or a positive impact in our world, no matter how big or small that impact may be. You see, my disappointment doesn’t lie within those I share a nationality with, but within the negative environment and atmosphere our country has become accustomed to, that sense of hopelessness and defeat that resonates in our air, which has shattered the hopes of us all.
Five years from now, I hope that I’ll have graduated from college with a globally-recognised degree in an area of study that will never cease to expand, grow and develop, almost at the same rate as my ‘larger than life’ dreams. I see myself living life to the absolute max, in a culture and environment where all of my rights are respected and my decisions left for me to make – FOR ME. I visualise myself waking up each morning and drifting to sleep each night, safe in the knowledge that I’ll never be denied an opportunity in life. And as much as it hurts for me to say it, I see myself somewhere, far, far away from here.
Since 2009, over 250,ooo young (20-something year old) Irish citizens have departed from our shores, venturing in every direction, the vast majority are yet to return – will they ever? I for one can’t answer that but in my estimation, they’d be far better off if they didn’t. You’ll say “isn’t it a shame”, you’ll notice their presence missing from the town’s GAA team or the local pub. Up until now, you’ll have wished that they didn’t have to make that life-altering decision but maybe, just maybe, having read my piece, you’ll begin to understand why they left, and more importantly, how that decision is probably the best one they’ll ever make.
Éire, as sin amach scaradar – Ireland, we are together no more.