‘Departure Day’ - a bleak insight into Ireland’s new emigrants

By Alan Moss

RTÉ's latest insight into the woes of the departing thousands provides a depressing outlook on the current situation faced by the youth of Ireland. Is it really necessary to air such a documentary, when the realities of emigration are so horribly evident in Irish society today?

Emigration has been on the increase in Ireland since the start of the economic recession, with emigrants relocating mainly to Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It is a rare family in Ireland today that has not been in some way affected by the resurgence of emigration from Ireland. As a recent graduate myself, I am well acquainted with the necessity for a large proportion of my peers to leave Ireland in search of employment elsewhere. It is a long way from the situation three or four years ago, when it was commonplace after finishing university to 'go travelling' to escape from the ennui and humdrum of daily life.

Today, the departure gates of Irish airports are awash with inconsolable families being torn apart by the government’s blasé approach to stopping the exodus. All this is known and is being experienced on a daily basis by such a large proportion of the population that one must wonder what RTÉ was aiming to achieve by airing their fly-on-the wall documentary Departure Day, which chronicled the desperation of Irish people about to emigrate. 

The documentary was peppered with heartbreaking tales of families left destroyed, as people were forced into leaving by the lack of opportunity that has come to epitomise Ireland since 2008. I for one, who in the coming weeks will be saying goodbye to many classmates and friends, did not need a reminder of the bleakness of our current situation. In the hour-long programme, no new information or insights were offered to the viewer. Admittedly, I became more frustrated with the state of things, but the programme did not attempt to offer guidance or reassurance, rather it allowed itself to wallow in the current bleak outlook. Surely this is not the type of programming we need to be seeing on our national broadcaster right now.

Those of us who remain in Ireland, presumably would rather tune into something which focuses on the positives rather than the negatives. Why not have a documentary following the lives of those who have left and made successes of themselves in other countries? Why not focus on the thousands of emigrants who are happy in their new lives abroad and who, when the economy heals, aim to return to their homeland? At least that would be something different. It may have offered a glimmer of hope and might have been informative and comforting to the thousands of people who are about to leave, and their families who will remain behind.

Granted, RTÉ is not essentially the bad guy. One interesting scene in the documentary came at the very close, when those leaving the country expressed their discontent with how they had been treated by the Irish government. They, rightly, see themselves as a forgotten generation. The government is undeniably making a mistake in allowing so many people leave our shores.

Economists agree that in order for Ireland to return to healthy economic stability and growth, a skilled and educated workforce is needed.The so called ‘knowledge economy’ which was to the fore in the general election campaigns seems to have been forgotten. As the documentary rightly pointed out, it seems that the powers that be are happy to see thousands of young people leaving. Why? Because they are leaving the live register - essentially, they are becoming someone else’s problem.