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Latest update : 2011-01-04

The new Irish exodus

Thousands of young Irish people have already packed their bags and left. Many thousands more are set to join them soon. The small country once labelled the 'Celtic Tiger' is experiencing a wave of emigration on a scale not seen for decades. Amid economic meltdown, many people feel there’s simply no future for them in Ireland.

Throughout history, the country has seen departures en masse before: in the 1840s, following the Second World War, and again in the 1980s. Now fears are mounting that another generation of Irish youth is on the move. But this time, many are heading further afield than ever before. Australia is the number one destination for Irish emigrants, followed by New Zealand and Canada. Worryingly, the majority of those leaving are highly qualified young professionals and graduates; in the past it’s tended to be manual or low-skilled workers who’ve headed abroad. Student leaders speak openly of a looming 'brain drain'.

In and around the Dublin area, it’s not hard to find the reasons why some of the country’s brightest brains are heading abroad. Faced with abandoned building sites and 'for sale' signs at every turn, Ireland’s once-booming property sector has all but collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of people are trapped in negative equity or living in so-called ghost estates, full of empty houses. Ireland’s unemployment rate has been hovering around 14 percent, and living costs remain high. Few people speak of a bright future for Ireland, in the short term, at least.

By Sylvain ROUSSEAU , Catherine NORRIS TRENT

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