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    Will emigration lead us down economic vortex?

    Monday, December 7th, 2009

    In Ireland, it’s probably most common to think of emigration as an economic release valve. It lowers the unemployment rate, cuts the costs of social welfare, and siphons off the kind of economic pressure that in other societies might result in popular revolt.  Historically, emigration is seen as a result of our poor economic situation, not a major contributor to it.

    Piaras Mac Einri, in an article on IrishCentral.com, noted that Irish authorities seem complacent about the current wave of emigration. If they are, it’s possibly because they subscribe to this rather benign view of emigration’s effects in Ireland.

    But what other effects does emigration have? A new study produced by researchers in Michigan suggests that emigration is not just the result of economic downturn, but is also an agent in it. Michigan has faced a severe loss of population in the last decade, losing 16,000 jobs as 63 of its 83 counties faced a decline in the number of residents.

    The Economic Impacts of County Population Changes in Michigan, from the Land Policy Institute at Michigan State University, says that this emigration in itself poses serious economic challenges.  It estimates it’s cost Michigan $2 billion of economic output, with $585 million lost in labour income, $346 million in property income, and $2.4 billion dollars in home equity value.

    “When people leave town, so does their economic activity,” said Land Policy Institute Soji Adelaja,  the lead author of the study. “This is especially true in a service economy, which depends upon people providing and needing services. The impact of these departures cuts deeper into the economy.”

    “Such population loss can mean an economic vortex for a city like Detroit. Fewer people mean fewer tax revenues to provide city services. Fewer city services mean lower quality of life for people. So people are faced with tough decisions: Stick it out, or leave.”

    Various sectors are particularly affected, including domestic trade, home construction, real estate rental, foreign trade, healthcare services, food services and drinking places, wholesale trade, insurance and financial services and entertainment activities, such as movie theatres. In a service-oriented economic in which people are more apt to move, these services are also more likely to move with them.

    of jobs, people and income means that places that are economically vulnerable are even more exposed when they lose population. On the other hand, buoyant places have the benefit of being population attraction and destination points, and service jobs follow them. Indeed, the literature has shown that knowledge-jobs follow knowledge-workers who choose where they wish to live rather than just following jobs to places with little appeal (Florida, 2002).
    Various sectors are particularly affected, including domestic trade, home construction, real estate rental, foreign trade, healthcare services, food services and drinking places, wholesale trade, insurance and financial services and entertainment activities, such as movie theatres. In a service-oriented economy in which people are more apt to move, these services are also more likely to move with them.

    The study notes that “the loss of economic activity due to population loss is likely to be an increasingly important issue as the economy transitions further from a manufacturing-based economy to a service-based one.”

    It calls for the following strategies as a remedy for Michigan’s ills:

    • Population attraction strategies.
    • “Right-sizing” or “down-sizing” (aligning provision of services with population).
    • Policies targeted to enhance the stability of the service sector.
    • Tourism-attraction strategies.
    • Immigration-based strategies for economic development.
    • The pursuit of federal resources to salvage Michigan’s economy.

    The study is well worth a read. How much of it is relevant to the Irish situation? Will emigration be a factor in extending our current downturn? How hard are we trying to make sure it won’t be?

    Related web pages:

    Emigration pageant for Derry City of Culture bid?

    Friday, December 4th, 2009

    An interesting emigration-themed idea proposed for Derry’s bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2013:

    From Shore to Shore: A specially-commissioned pageant focussing on arriving planters and departing emigrants, to be performed (May-June) on some of the north-west’s most picturesque beaches from Hervey’s Downhill to Red Hugh’s Rathmullan. This would feature the stories of northwest immigrants such as John Dunlap (Strabane), who went on to print the American Declaration of Independence, and William Massey (Limavady), who became Prime Minister of New Zealand. There would also be an international tie-in with Scotland, Liverpool and Newfoundland.

    The idea is one of many cultural offerings dreamed up by a group of arts workers who wanted to beef up the city’s application as it enters the second round. It’s a great example of how focusing on Ireland’s emigrant heritage strengthens international links as it showcases the achievements of the Irish abroad – as well as providing exciting platforms for innovative cultural happenings.

    See the full article by Garbhan Downey in the Derry Journal: Culture 2013 bid must be special.

    Monuments

    Monday, July 27th, 2009

    A number of monuments to emigration exist in Ireland; one or two of these are well-known, while many of the rest of them have more of a local appeal.

    Let me know if you know of any others to add to this list, either in Ireland or around the world.

    Larne, Co. Antrim – “Emigrants to America?

    This memorial depicts a family emigrating in 1717, and their appearance is in marked contrast to the more common depictions of famine-era emigrants. They are well-dressed and relatively prosperous-looking; the woman is carrying a Bible and the boy is carrying his shoes. Their positioning, in which they look forward into the distance, suggests a sense of possibility and even pride.  The figures appear to be a literate, reasonably well-off family looking forward to the future.

    The inscription on the monument reads:

    This memorial, unveiled on 16th May 1992 by Professor Bobby Moss PhD of South Carolina, is dedicated to the memory of those first Ulster emigrants who sailed from Larne in May 1717 upon the “Friends Goodwill” bound for Boston. They were to be the first of many.”

    “There is no other race in the United States that can produce a roll of honour so long and so shining with distinction. And who shall deny our claim to have done more, much more than any others to make the United States”.

    Two related monuments:

    These are closely linked memorials that tell different stories.

    • “Coffin Ship” places the emphasis on death and suffering tied in with the departure -skeletons form the structure of the ship, and the figures are lying down. It is significant that this monument is in Ireland, where the Famine’s toll of suffering and death was acute.
    • “Arrival” emphasises the successful completion of the journey- the figures are upright, and some of them are leaving the boat. Additionally, these are fully-fleshed out buildings and the figures on the boat have individual features. The sculpture’s location in New York and its more positive tone reflects the fact that for those who made the journey, there was the possibility of a new life. It also reflects the different meaning of the famine for the two countries: While for Ireland, the Famine was synonymous with despair, emigration and death; in the New World, however, discourse about Famine emigration, while acknowledging many of its tragic aspects, also reflects the fact that the large-scale migration was a starting point for much of Irish-American history.

    Famine Monuments, Ireland and Canada – Rowan Gillespie

    Famine Monument, Dublin

    Ireland Park, Toronto

    The Toronto memorial is unusual in that it focuses on the mindset of the immediate arrivals.

    Falcarragh, Co. Donegal – The Bridge of Tears and monument stone

    The translation of text on the stone: “Friends and relations of the person who was emigrating would come this far. Here they separated. This is the Bridge of Tears.?

    Derry –”The Emigrants” Eamon O’Doherty’s sculpture at Waterloo Place

    This monument depicts a couple departing with their children and two grandparents saying farewell. Two of the figures in the departing family look backward at the grandparents, while two look forward, toward the port.

    The sculptor is showing the relationship between the emigrants’ past and future and the people left behind. The depiction of two figures looking back and two looking forward highlights both the pain of departure and the possibilities inherent in migration.  The boy has a musical instrument, and the young girl is carrying a book;  both of these signify the culture they will bring with them to their new land.

    The clothing and the figures are highly stylised, so it seems  that the sculptor is trying to represent the idea of emigration itself rather than commemorate a particular set of emigrants.

    Sligo Famine Memorial

    See it on Flickr.

    This sculpture shows the vulnerability of the Famine emigrants – yet the figures are also demonstrating tenderness and concern for each other. In contrast to the family at Larne, they are focused inward – emigration is not for them a matter of looking forward to a bright future.  The young girl is pointing out toward the harbour, and ultimately to her future in America.

    Annie Moore

    Annie Moore with her brothers, Cobh – Images on Flickr

    Annie Moore at Ellis Island, New York  – Images on Flickr

    Annie Moore was the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island in New York, which was opened on January 1, 1892. She and her brothers were joining her parents, who had emigrated in 1888.

    Kiltimagh – “I’ll send you the fare” – Sally McKenna, 2006

    The plaque on the ground reads,

    “This sculpture is dedicated by Bill Durkan to the memory of the young men and women who emigrated from Kiltimagh, Bohola and the surrounding areas during the 1950s.”

    Many young men and women emigrated alone in the 1950s. This is an extremely poignant depiction of emigration: the figure is almost ghost-like in its positioning on the footpath of a town street, as he trudges along, accompanied by no one. The small suitcase seems to highlight his vulnerability, heightening the notion that he may be ill-prepared for such a life-changing journey.  The lack of pedestal gives  a greater sense of immediacy or intimacy to the figure.

    This is a monument to the ordinary, unheralded emigrant, yet it is also very specific in its reference to a particular place and time. It is unusual in memorialising such a recent migration; many of those it is meant to memorialise are still alive.

    Cork Listening Posts

    Cork City Council

    The Listening Posts are an innovative use of oral history. The repeating voices of the posts are like ghostly presences inhabiting the quays.

    This monument is different from the others in its visual minimalism, as it would be impossible to tell from the appearance of the sculpture what it is meant to memorialise.

    Other monuments and memorials:

    • Irish Memorial, Philadelphia – Flickr
    • Famine monument, Cambridge, Massachusetts – Flickr
    • New Basin Canal Irish Memorial, New Orleans, Louisiana – Flickr
    • Famine memorial – Sydney, Australia – Flickr
    • New Basin Canal Irish Memorial – Flickr
    • Irish Veteran Memorial Project – website
    • Shot at Dawn Memorial – Flickr

    International – monuments crated by other nations to commemorate various migrations

    • Emigration Stone – Cromarty, Scotland – Flickr
    • Emigration monument, Hanko, Finland – Flickr
    • Monleone, Cicagna, Italy – Flickr
    • Emigrant’s Monument, Feltre – Flickr
    • Garden of Exile – Berlin Flickr, web, Flickr, Youtube
    • Monument of mass emigration, The Three Changjiang River Gorges, China – Flickr
    • Chinese coolie, Singapore – Flickr
    • Lampedusa, Italy – monument to migrants who died at sea trying to reach Europe – web article, Flickr
    • Migrant children, Fremantle, Australia – Flickr, more Flickr

    UNESCO – Migration and World Heritage Sites


    Pets abandoned by emigrating owners, say centres

    Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

    About a year ago, the number of cars being abandoned at Dublin Airport was cited in the media as an indication of rising emigration. A new measure has emerged: the number of abandoned pets.

    The Irish Independent reports that charities that look after pets are seeing an increase in the number of owners leaving their pets, with people blaming financial difficulties or their intentions to emigrate to seek work. Last year there were 20,000 dogs that were abandoned or given up, with about half of those put down.

    The paper reports that the Dublin Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals “has received a recent influx of calls from people looking to surrender or re-home their pets.” An animal rescue centre in Tipperary has seen the numbers of animals it’s taking in rising by a fifth, while facing slumping donations.

    In an editorial, the paper says:

    It seems a reasonable guess that people intending to emigrate form a high proportion of those who abandon animals. This in turn draws attention to the increase in emigration among both Irish people and returning immigrants, an inevitable consequence of the recession.

    People who are planning to leave Ireland may not be aware that in many cases they may simply be able to take their animals with them. While Ireland has strict regulations that make it difficult to bring animals in, most emigrant destinations allow intending immigrants to move with their pets.

    As for the definitive answer on how many people are emigrating, we await the publication of the CSO statistics, due in the next few weeks, to reveal the numbers behind the anecdotes.

    Related web pages:

    Mother writes of son’s impending emigration

    Monday, June 29th, 2009

    Patricia Leahy has written an extremely powerful article in today’s Irish Times about her son’s upcoming emigration. Leahy herself moved to Ireland 28 years ago; she is the daughter of Irish emigrants who left for New York in the 1940s. Seven decades later, after being unemployed for a year, her son is following in her father’s footsteps.

    Leahy knows that her son’s emigration isn’t likely to sunder his link with Ireland:

    As for his future, whether he stays or returns to Ireland, I hope the experience for him makes him grow into a man he can be proud of. I also hope it will heighten an appreciation of his country, culture and kinship.

    Maybe it already has. Since he made the decision to emigrate, his musical tastes have switched from rap, rock and house music to that of The Dubliners, The Furey Brothers and The Wolfe Tones.

    I am quite sure that Ireland hasn’t lost another son.

    A deeply moving piece.

    Irish Times: Irishwoman’s Diary

    More Irish students seeking places at British universities

    Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

    Irish students are applying to British colleges and universities at an accelerating pace this year. The Irish Post is reporting that the nmber of applications from Ireland for British places is up more than 13%, with 5,425, or  nearly 14% of students who sat their Leaving Cert exam this year, making such an application.

    The newspaper reports that the major factor in the shift is the student fears over the possibility of the reintroduction of fees, and also notes the heavy promotion efforts British universities are aiming at Irish students.

    Related web page:
    Irish Post: Young Irish on course for Britain

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