MANY PEOPLE emigrating from Ireland today have no other option available to them, the chairman of the Irish Bishops’ Council for Emigrants, Bishop John Kirby, said last Monday.
“Sadly, for many Irish people today emigration is not a lifestyle choice, but a necessity. Our new emigrants are forced to leave behind family and loved ones because of circumstances outside of their control,” he said.
Bishop Kirby made the comments in a statement issued “in response to the recent public debate on the causes affecting contemporary Irish emigration”.
Minister for Finance Michael Noonan was criticised last week after he said emigration was chosen freely by many people.
“There are always young people coming and going from Ireland. Some of them are emigrants in the traditional sense, but simply there are people who want to get off the island,” Mr Noonan said.
“For a lot of people going, it’s not being driven by unemployment at all. It’s being driven by wanting to see another part of the world.”
He later said his comments had been reported out of context and said he meant emigration was a lifestyle choice for some people.
Bishop Kirby said “while some Irish people may choose to work abroad – and this was especially true during the economic boom – many of our people now emigrating have no other option available to them”.
Our new emigrants, he said, were forced to leave behind family and loved ones because of circumstances outside of their control.
“Many Irish people across the age groups must now take on the challenge of building a new life for themselves abroad. At a human level this will be very difficult as they cope with loneliness and isolation.”
He said that since the 1950s the Catholic Church in Ireland had provided chaplains to Irish communities in Britain, the United States and Australia to support their pastoral and spiritual needs.
“Our chaplaincies in London, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Sydney are experiencing increased demand for advice concerning issues such as spiritual and emotional support, medical, employment, accommodation, legal and immigrant status. We have found that many of the problems presenting are similar in nature to those we have dealt with in previous generations. The reality is that the new generation of Irish emigrants have had this lifestyle choice made for them as a consequence of the downturn in the economy.”