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    Ireland’s Lost Wall: a reminder of our emigrants

    By Noreen Bowden | February 18, 2011

    An Irish social media designer has created a powerfully emotive project meant to remind Ireland of those who have emigrated. Colin Hart is a returned emigrant, back from four years in Canada. His project, Ireland’s Lost Wall, is a simple site with the names and current locations of dozens of Irish expats, along with the reasons they left Ireland. If you’re living abroad, consider putting your own name up!

    While not a political project, Colin explains that his project is tied in with the upcoming general election and emigrants. He’s planning on spending next week projecting the names on the walls of prominent buildings, including various party headquarters, to remind voters of those who have left. As he says on his website,

    “Every night up until the 25th, the names from the wall will be projected onto prominent buildings around Ireland to remind people with votes, their responsibilities and how important it is that the representatives they choose will make this country a better place to live and a better place for all the people on the wall to return to…some day.”

    He told me, “It’s to highlight we’re not just voting for ourselves. When I was away, I would have loved for people to consider me because I wanted to come back.? His own sister, currently in Australia, is also on the wall, and he’s hoping that “we can make Ireland a place for her to come back to in a few years?.

    While emigrants can add themselves to the wall, they can also remove themselves – an important point for Colin. The wall is meant to be permanent: “it lives forever until everyone who has gone away can come back and click that remove button?, signifying they’ve come home.

    The website’s design is similar to the old-fashioned idea of a memorial wall, such as the one at Ellis Island, consisting of a list of names. Click on the names, however, and you’ll get more detail. A sampling:

    • Jenny Kelleher, Vienna, Austria. “Job!?
    • Kate HIckey, New York, US. “Got a job?
    • Hugo Kennedy, Toronto, Ontario. “Lack of a better idea?
    • Angela Banks, London. “I fell in love with a nice man in a country where the politicians have the decency to cover up their corruption.?
    • Emmet Marsh, London. “Dublin was septic and depressing?
    • James McCay, Sydney. “I didn’t have a job and I had to leave.?
    • Ida Hefferan, Seattle. “When I applied for the visa I thought I would never get it but when it came through, I had to go. There is very little for me in Ireland at the minute.?
    • Lena Sharp, Melbourne. “Ireland is an amazing place and home but it seems like everyone is leaving, all my friends are here?

    It’s a simple project, but a fascinating one – the quotes from the emigrants are lively, loaded with wit and humour and poignancy. The site is accompanied by a video describing the project, which is also worth watching.

    The project reminds me a little of David Monaghan’s Leaving Dublin – in that both are taking the oldest theme in Ireland’s history and transforming the expression of emotion around that experience in really fresh ways, creating dynamic ways of looking at emigration that are both sympathetic and thought-provoking.

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