Jonathan Morrissey gives us his thoughts as a young Irish rural dweller.
Over the last few years a very sad trend has started to emerge. A trend that is causing disruption to rural areas and communities, yet is somehow not affecting our Irish urban areas in the same way. I am referring to the drastic rise in rural Irish emigration. This is of course something our country has always been accustomed to, dating back to the Great Famine but why in our modernised country is this being almost entirely confined to rural areas?
As a 25-year-old man who has lived his entire life in the country side (and loves it) I have seen many of the people I have grown up with leave the country for greener pastures. While of the course the recession, unemployment and many other economic factors can be considered for this happening, I have seen other reasons which I find just as important. These are reasons that only people from rural areas may understand and sympathise with, they may even be reasons or issues that urban dwellers (or the enemy) may find hilarious.
One of the major factors is boredom. Now that may seem like an excuse or the whining of a spoilt teenager but bear with me for a minute. Ireland is not a country blessed with amazing amenities. Even the cities in our fine country lack spark and at times can seem completely lifeless. When you venture out into rural areas, this increases tenfold. Most rural areas consist of a shop, post office, a church and 400 pubs. Not exactly all tailored for a young Irish man or woman growing up.
Luckily growing up I was blessed with having a handful people of my age living in close proximity to me—people to share this burden with. However as you get older you notice these people begin to abandon this way of life as it is just not doable in this day in age. What sane person wants to deal with children who are constantly bored growing up? (Especially if the mother or father has experienced the same thing.)
Another major issue with the boredom is that even though this is not a particularly large country, if you do not drive or there is no local bus service. You can be basically stranded. As a man in his 20s who loves film and is fond of the occasional social drink with friends, getting to a cinema or a bar/pub can be difficult. Taxis can charge incredible prices that can be massively off-putting when considering venturing into the city. Why not get the bus I hear you ask? Well the bus service near me heads into town at 7.10am and passes back again at 20.00pm, not the handiest of hours. Is this enough to force one into emigration?
Well, no is the simple answer. Yet for many young people these days it is not only cheaper, but easier, to move abroad then it is to move in towards one of our cities. Boredom and the difficulty of getting to work or college pushes a young person to want to move out. The difficulty of getting a place to rent as a first time renter and the high rent prices push young people to instead look abroad. The attraction of major destinations for Irish youth such as Canada or Australia is obvious to see. The allure of a whole new country to explore and the multitude of jobs and things to do seem endless.
These points will forever remain true but are we doing enough in our country to hold onto our youth and stop the ‘brain drain’? In rural areas there is zero investment for young people. It just doesn’t exist, had there been a decent bus service or even a local shop in my area then you would find more people staying or relocating to rural areas. I’m not suggesting we pour millions into the rural countryside and urbanise it, I am merely suggesting it sees some sort of development and is not disregarded due to it not being a part of the city.
Where I live, Limerick, is a great example of how development in rural areas has never really taken place. The city itself is probably on its last legs and the council have decided to focus more on rehabilitation of certain areas, otherwise known as the regeneration project. While of course this is quite obviously needed, it still takes focus away from our incredibly important and beautiful rural areas.
I love the Irish countryside, I wear it as a badge of pride and honour. There is a sense of community and friendship that can’t be attained in urban areas, a sense of being able to rely on the person next door to you. Yet as the years go on, with more and more Irish moving abroad, it is clear to see that these communities will dwindle and the rural Irish countryside will begin to slowly fade away. Of the handful of friends I mentioned previously, I am the only who remains in rural Ireland with the rest having all moved abroad. At times this saddens me, of course as a young person travel is essential to growing up, yet it bothers me when people my age have been to more countries then Irish counties. We live in a country full of fascinating things to discover and explore, yet few my age can claim they have seen even a small portion of this. Yet the sad thing about the young Irish man writing this, is that he is thinking of moving abroad.
I have tried to stick it out as long as I can, yet it has proven nearly impossible to achieve the life I want while living here. I’ve always had a profound interest in writing and journalism but for me to be successful, moving to a major city is a must. My heart will always be in the rural countryside of my home, yet I am being drawn away out of necessity. I would love to make the countryside a permanent fixture in my life but for someone my age that is not economically feasible.
Of course I want to travel like many people my age but if I leave I don’t see myself coming back. The chances of landing a great job with a stable future and career is something that is much more realistic in the major cities of countries abroad then the place we call home. This ‘brain drain’ will not yield until our country begins to development in a way that young people can take advantage of and enjoy.
I am aware that many people are reading this article and have raised full families in the rural countryside and have lived full comfortable lives. I am not disregarding this as a complete impossibility but there is no arguing that it is not the viable option it used to be, especially in the middle of a recession with a clueless government. All we can hope for is that the people that have left us in recent years will return to the countryside and maybe those communities might begin to grow again.
Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @supersheep1000