Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Irish Need Not Apply

The old country is bleeding. Over one thousand young people are leaving every week. Someone remarked recently, “It’s just one going-away party after another.”

Where are they heading, this best educated Irish generation? Not here – many to EU countries, some to the UK, but mostly to the new land of opportunity, Australia.

Once we would have heard their accents ricocheting around Bainbridge, Woodside and all the various South sides around the country but that’s a thing of the past.

What went wrong? Well, the long and the short of it - we don’t want them in Fortress America.

And so on this St. Patrick’s Day eve it’s time to take stock before we dive into our annual orgy of self-congratulation – some deserved, some not so.

The man reason these young Irish are not coming to the US is that it is almost impossible to do so legally – Irish need not apply. And it is hardly worth their time coming illegally, the few avenues that used to be open towards gaining a green card and eventual citizenship have been closed off. What’s the point in spending a life on the shadowy margins when somewhere else better appreciates the talent on offer?

Irish-America could do with some new blood. I recently stood outside the shell of the old Bunratty Pub on Kingsbridge Avenue and remembered nights when men wild with drink blasted jigs and reels the like of which I’d never heard in Ireland. There wasn’t an Irish face to be seen - nor any outside the Archway where only a couple of decades ago hundreds lined up to dance.

It’s the same story all over this city and the country – old neighborhoods are dying for lack of immigrant youth. Irish need not apply and most of us take it lying down.

A new Taoiseach will go hat in hand to present shamrock at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day but DC wants nothing to do with a fair immigration law. The new Know-Nothings rule the roost – Irish need not apply.

But we must face the fact that many of these young emigrants no longer see the US as the land of opportunity. Now I still stand by the claim that this is the best country in the world. But a country is only as great as the aspirations of its people.

It is indeed time to look in the mirror and examine what these emigrants see - a country at permanent war hemorrhaging its youth and wealth in endless conflicts half way around the world. A society that, instead of strengthening its social safety net, is talking of dismantling it, thus inevitably impoverishing large sections of an aging working and middle-class.

Still, these trends can be reversed – but only if we shake ourselves free from a national lethargy. It’s easy to be cynical, after all 99% of us didn’t cause the recent financial meltdown. But the fact is we didn’t keep an eye on those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on the store for us.

Most of us didn’t want to invade Iraq and, according to polls, would rather be the hell out of Afghanistan. Yet, we allow our leaders to prosecute policies that are driven by outdated 9/11 related strategies.

These are hardly just Irish-American issues but, from both left and right, we’ve always been known for our advocacy and our desire for justice, whether it be Bobby Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley or Pete Hamill. Right now we badly need a comprehensive reform of emigration law no matter how difficult it may be to pass through an increasingly Know-Nothing congress.

We have inherited a country and a proud Irish-American mantle. We have need of new blood, while at the same time there are those undocumented amongst us who would only love to set foot on Irish soil again to visit aging parents.

It’s time our politicians heard that message. Many of them, Democrat and Republican, take our votes for granted. That has to end.

Then perhaps someday we’ll hear those mad flutes and fiddles blasting jigs and reels on Kingsbridge Avenue once again.


  1. Well said Larry. That article should be printed in the Irish Times. As an American living in Ireland for 15 years now, I've never seen it so bad. So many jobs lost, so many people in arrears. I know people who don't even have a few quid for milk or bread on a Weds. And to be honest I wouldn't bring my kids back to America, because I do not see a future there either. We will be more likely to move to England this summer as I was involved in meat processing. To top it all off our jobs were replaced by foreign workers (Brazilians & Eastern Europeans) who will work for next to nothing. The Irish got greedy during the good times but now they don't have a clue how to fix it. All you hear is empty promises, and the biggest problem that I can't understand,is why the Irish just lie down and take it. Matt Bergin, Co. Laois

  2. I think there's a lot that have been shocked into silence by the never ending money grab that is America in recent times. Probably since Mr. Reagan stopped training GE employees and took the highest paid acting job in the country. Although that's really just when the froth bubbled over. My feeling is that the Irish would be happier in Ireland. I've been there and it's beautiful. They should stay away from us stupid Americans.
    We don't have any idea what's good for us anymore.


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