“economic downturn is so acute it is causing many to consider leaving the country..”

In yesterday’s Irish Times, the Republic of Ireland’s President, Mary McAleese, was telling anyone who would listen that “Ireland’s young people have the sort of can-do mentality, combined with education and confidence, that is needed to lift the country out of its gloom.” Elaine Byrne chipped in on the opinion pages – “Rising generation will regenerate a better Ireland”. Unfortunately for their argument, the same edition carried these details from the latest Irish Times /Behaviour Attitudes opinion poll.

THE VAST majority (72 per cent) of people want to see a reduction in the number of non-Irish immigrants living here, according to an Irish Times /Behaviour Attitudes opinion poll. Overall, a total of 43 per cent say they would like to see some, but not all, immigrants leave the State, while 29 per cent would like to see most immigrants leave. In contrast, just over a quarter (26 per cent) would like to see the number of immigrants remain as it is.

In a reversal of trends from polls in recent years, younger people’s attitudes towards immigration have hardened the most. For example, 81 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 would like to see the number of immigrants fall, compared to 69 per cent in the 25-44 age group. People in rural areas and those from less well-off backgrounds are also more likely to support a reduction in the number of foreign workers based here. The findings are contained in a national poll on “Ireland Today” of 1,004 adults. It was conducted between October 12th and 26th this year at 100 sampling points across the State. The economic downturn is so acute it is causing many to consider leaving the country.

Apparently, it’s the lack of jobs which has brought a change in attitudes to migration.

Thousands of young people are adjusting to the boredom and poverty that comes with unemployment. Others are lowering their expectations, working in low-paid jobs outside the areas in which they are qualified. Emigration is emerging as a serious option for a new generation of young people.

Today’s poll shows that some 40 per cent of those aged 18 to 24 feel they are likely to emigrate within the next five years. Another 15 per cent say they don’t know what they will do.

The numbers considering emigration fall off significantly among older age groups. A total of 22 per cent of 25-34-year-olds feel it is likely they will leave the country in search of work, falling to 7 per cent among 35-44-year-olds.

Young people from both lower and higher groups are just as likely to be considering emigration as an option (although those in rural areas are more likely to remain in the country).