The Return of Oliver Cromwell

Last night on the wireless as I drove back from Belfast there was a discussion on the economic woes facing Ireland. Cheerful and optimistic it wasn’t.

One contribution was an ultra depressing exegesis of the current state of the Irish economy and the prospects for our young people by a young Leaving Cert student from St Patrick’s in Navan.

Judging by his mood, all the exam halls of Ireland should today have erected signs over their portals declaiming ‘Abandon Hope All Ye Enter Here.’  Such was the pessimism. It seems the youth of Erin are resigned to a life in different climes.

The plain people of tomorrow won’t be the plain people of Ireland, they will be the plain people of Australia, Canada, the United States, the UK. Wherever they will go.

It harks back to other times. And it is a stark reminder to those who were maybe unreceptive to the arrival in Ireland during the naughties of Eastern European migrant workers, that we are only one economic downturn away from the curse of mass emigration once again.

The Young scribe tellingly reported that young people were sick or hearing what had caused the national woes and wanted to move on. Typically moving on meant via plane.

As if the mood wasn’t sombre enough, a follow-up item told the tale of a couple from Monaghan. The husband, out of work and unable to find employment as a civil engineer, or in fact any engineer, had headed to Australia to work, leaving his wife and children behind. She was left at home literally holding the babies, bereft and at a loss at the absence of her husband and soulmate. It was a case of living grief. Economic misery had dictated that the husband was forced to head south.

The husband is working 21 days on and seven days off on a gas pipeline in Australia near Brisbane. He, a trained civil engineer does some of that but also labours over 14 hours each day. It is back-breaking work. She described his working conditions as part-Auschwitz part-prison.

He was able to phone home via skype but the mutually agreeable time was when the children were going out to school. His wife recounted how when he first called they spent 15 minutes weeping together at their plight. In love, happily married, a couple joined in trying to keep the family together and separated by distance and the need to earn a living.

It was heartrending stuff. And in all these circumstances several thoughts cross your mind. How would I/We contend with these circumstances if we found ourselves in that position. How did the country get to the stage where a home, a family and a marriage was forced into a long distance love affair?

The answer is in education. In providing the children of today with the skills and tools to leave this place and go where the wind and the work takes them.

And where they can go voluntarily without being driven out of the country by the modern day Cromwells who came and stole their future.

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