Thousands set to emigrate as woes continue
AS THE Fianna Fáil party and the government went into meltdown over the past week, little notice was paid to the Economic and Social Research Institution's prediction that 100,000 people will emigrate over the next two years. Yet it is these cold, stark figures that really tell the story of the government's mismanagement of the nation, for which the Taoiseach and his party are now paying a high price.
The events of the past week were bizarre and unprecedented in the political life of the country but, in a sense, the inept manoeuvering of the Taoiseach did provide an appropriate swan song for a government that has done so much harm.
There was much talk of 'putting the country' first when the indignant Greens pulled out of government on Sunday, just as there was the previous day when the beleagured Brian Cowen finally quit as leader of Fianna Fáil, saying he was "concerned that renewed criticism of my leadership" is deflecting from "important debates".
Brian Cowen was also thinking of the best interests of the country when he made his botched attempt at a cabined reshuffle to ensure, he told us, that the country would have ministers who would be more accountable to the people. This was a perverse interpretation of accountability from a Taoiseach who knows he and his government have long since lost the confidence of the people they were elected to serve.
Perhaps the most shameful part of the sorry events of the weekend was when Brian Cowen, finally realising he had even lost the support of his own party, quit as leader of Fianna Fáil but remained determind to continue as Taoiseach. That made a mockery of the notion of political accountability and of democracy and, much though he might wish it were otherwise, Cowen's protestations fool nobody any more.
Most of all, the 100,000 people who will be forced to leave Ireland over the next two years are not buying the played out excuses being peddled by an entire political class that has failed them utterly.
Those who leave will include the unemployed builders, engineers and architects who are no longer needed in a country that has more empty houses and ghost estates than anybody knows what to do with.
The inept, corrupt and self-serving stewardship of the country by our descredited political class has put Ireland back where it was in the dark days of the 1950s when the 'safety valve of emigration' forced the country's best and brightest to seek opportunity elsewhere. The level of emigration predicted by the ESRI provides a better measure of the state of the nation than any economic indicators like GNP and GDP or the hollow talk of turning corners towards economic recovery.
Emigration on this scale proves that the nation has failed its citizens. That we should be reduced to this after a boom period that offered the prospect of real, sustainable prosperity is a disgrace that will hang over Fianna Fáil for many long years, and deservedly so. But that will be cold comfort to those who are now logging on to internet sites to search out the cheapest one-way fares to any country that will have them.
Unlike their predecessors in the 1950s they, at least, will leave with a fairly decent education. But like the east Europeans and others who flooded here in the Celtic Tiger years, most will still end up doing the jobs that the locals don't want.
And while they labour on building sites, serve pints and clean hotel rooms they will be treated with just about the same amount of respect that we gave to our immigrants. This is the new Ireland we've forged and it's a sorry legacy for the generations who will follow.