The Tanaiste, Mary Coughlan, it seems, is in a bit of bother. At this stage I should declare my, not so much my interest as my disinterest. If Mary Coughlan were to be abducted by aliens and never seen again, speaking from a political perspective, you wouldn’t find me sobbing my little heart out each night that followed. By and large, there’s something about Mary that makes me want to shout at the TV. But on this occasion I think she’s being unfairly pilloried.
It seems she has suggested that a lot of the young Irish people who are now emigrating are doing so because ‘they want to have some fun’. Her political opponents have clapped their hands to their brows and cried horror and havoc and the cold-blooded monster to say such a thing. That’s partly because they want to nail Mary politically and in doing so damage the Fianna Fail-Green Party coalition and maybe provoke a general election, and partly because the people shouting have never themselves emigrated. I have, and the truth is, it is fun.
Or rather, there are fun aspects to it. You’re far away from your ma and da. You’re starting from scratch in terms of friends and colleagues and work. You’re surrounded by new things, some of them better than their equivalent back home. And above all, you’re probably making more money than you would if you were sitting at home looking out at the rain.
The making-more-money bit is an important bit, but it’s not the only bit. There’s something exhilarating about getting out from under the shadow of your family and the people in your town or locality, and being the kind of person you happen to feel like being, without someone pointing out that your granda was had up for stealing hens back in 1914, so what the hell would you know about anything?
Give Mary a break. Of course the economic melt-down is part of the reason thousand of young Irish people are going abroad to work. But there’s also that element of they-can’t-see-us-now-yeeha! to it. Tragedy laced with laughter. It happens.