Sligo’s junior minister John Perry TD has been harshly criticized after he claimed in the Dáil that many Irish were “emigrating by choice.”
The TD said he knew people who were “delighted” to be emigrating to the US and Canada for work.
His own south Sligo town, Ballymote, has seen many ‘American wakes’ in recent years with one weekend last year seeing the emigration of six young men followed the following weekend by another four forced to move.
Local GAA clubs have lost a signicant number of young players to the scourge of emigration with some having to suspend under-manned teams.
According to official CSO figures, over 87,000 people left Ireland in the year leading up to April 2012, with emigration surging to levels not experienced since the famine. 1,600 people are emigrating every single month. That is nine people leaving the country every single hour.
Perry, the Minister of State for Small Business, was answering questions from the opposition and specifically claims from Sinn Féin that nine people are emigrating from the State every hour when he said, “There are people emigrating by choice. I know several young people who will be quite delighted to go to the United States if they can get in, or to Canada if they have the required qualifications.”
Opposition TDs said most workers would be happier at home but Perry argued that there was a certain balance “for highly educated people, emigration was a matter of choice.”
Perry said the Government was doing its best to sort out the economy but “one cannot just wave a magic wand.”
His comments were described as offensive and disingenuous by opposition TDs with Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary saying that most of those who had emigrated “would be happier here at home”.
Sinn Féin jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín criticized Perry’s comments, saying: “Most emigration is forced emigration.”
“It is astonishing that a minister in the Department of Jobs is that detached from reality to claim that those emigrating do so from personal choice.”
Bríd O’Brien of the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed responded, “People of all age groups are emigrating because there’s no work here.
“We’ve lost an awful lot of jobs. I think a lot are leaving because they feel they have to.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Youth Affairs Senator Kathryn Reilly has called on Minister of State John Perry to apologise to those young people and their families who have been forced to emigrate to find work.
Senator Reilly said, “The majority of emigrants are under 25 years of age. They are leaving in search of work. They are leaving because Fine Gael and Labour have failed to invest in job creation.
“For Minister of State Perry top suggest that these people are choosing to leave is an insult to them and to their families.
“Minister of State Perry should apologise to these young people and to their families, not only for his insulting comments, but also for his Government’s failure to address the youth unemployment and emigration crisis.”
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