Monday, February 18, 2013

The Gathering: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes to the Land of Broken Dreams

2013. The year of The Gathering.

"The what?", I hear you ask, if you're not from these climes...

The Gathering...

"Cead mile failte." The traditional Irish greeting of a hundred thousand welcomes is being proffered by the Irish tourist board and government, as an initiative to tempt rich Americans and anyone lucky enough to have escaped the country, recently, or centuries ago, back for a holiday, to show off our cultural finesse, gloss over the economic meltdown and then turn them upside down, so the gold falls out the bottom of their pockets and plugs a hole in this sinking ship of a nation (is that enough mixed metaphors for you?!)


Gabriel Byrne referred to it as a "scam" and a "shakedown". And he'd be right. And it is shallow. It says, we want you if you have money, but not needs.

In reality this is not the year of the gathering, but a Leavetaking, or Scattering. Last year 238 left our shores. Everyday. From a country of only 4 million.

And it's not just European immigrants heading home now times are tougher. 53% leaving are native Irish. 87,100  of our population left in the 12 months to April 2012, according to the Central Statistics Office. They are expecting the same figures again for 2012-13. 

This is the land of the hundred thousand goodbyes.

Phew, fewer kids to pay for, you can hear the government sigh. Fewer sick people to deal with. Fewer on the dole. Fewer people in need of services. Yes but less taxes, less diversity, fewer families together. This is a brain drain as our youngest and brightest leave these shores. And many young married couples who had studied abroad, intending to head home to start their families, stay away because of the lack of prospects.

I don't know of anyone coming to the Gathering. But I know of families leaving. Posting their house keys through their doors, because they can't sell, because they're in negative equity, and they can't pay their mortgages. Families who came over to work for companies which are now barely surviving. Who have taken two pay cuts in a year. Every family I know lives under the constant stress of their main wager earner losing their livelihood. Families going to Australia in their droves, leaving behind grandmas and parents and siblings.

We came home to Ireland 8 years ago. After years of living in the UK and travelling. It truly felt like a home coming. It was my dream come true to be finally living in the community of my birth, close to two sets of parents. But now I'm not so sure, almost everyday I wonder would the grass be greener elsewhere?

Welcome to the land of a hundred thousand broken dreams.


  1. Grass is no greener on the other side xx things have to change soon, in all countries. The Land will rise, ancient stories will return and the people will prosper.

    Well I can hope, and for now, I send you hugs from one money stressed household to another xxx

    Shine brightly in the darkness xx

    1. Yes, yes, yes Suzanne, you are so right. I love that, The Land will rise. It will, it is, it must.

      Your comments always lift my spirits and touch my soul. Thank you xx

  2. Grass is pretty green here in NZ, although not necessarily in terms of monetary wealth. We lose a lot of our best and brightest overseas too, but we also import peeps like me who come for the climate and way of life. I came here from Ireland in 2003 with three teenagers, and they have all had opportunities in education and work that would have been denied them there.

    1. Deb, my husband and I both LOVED NZ on our travels, and the only thing that stopped us emigrating immediately was just HOW far it was from family and friends.I get so cross at the limited aspirations and opportunities here in terms of education which are just seen as normal.

      Thanks for taking time to comment.

  3. You could always move to Bhutan.... looks pretty green over there!

  4. Ummm, I couldn't, cos
    1) I wouldn't know where to START looking for it on a map and
    2) I know for sure that there are no flights to it from Cork airport!
    But otherwise, good call!!

  5. Painfully true Lucy and thank you for having the courage to call a spade a spade. I too don't know a single person coming for the 'gathering' but know if many leaving, already left.

  6. Lucy, why so negative today? The gathering is just another example of these difficult times allowing for some great creativity and I feel should be encouraged. It's nothing more than a clever idea to get a few tourists back to the country and an excuse for a good time and some festivals. There is plenty to be gloomy about but equally there's lots going on to celebrate, small businesses triving, priorities shifting in healthier directions, a genuine sense of community spirit and at the end of the day all we can do is look after our own little patch anyway. But most importantly spring is on the way......

  7. Why so anonymous today??!! ;)

    I was feeling really stuck when I wrote this. And it's true. As what you say is too. They are two sides of the Irish experience right now. But I wrote this on a day when I felt stuck money wise, opportunity wise, and having spoken to a number of friends who were also feeling stuck but wanting to escape from the school system, from the lack of job opportunities, to a place where they could rely on the health service...



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