Veronica O’Looney Interview

Loretto: When did you leave Ireland?

Veronica: Are we talking about when I left Irelandfor good or when I actually
left to go working?

Loretto: Well let’s talk about the time you left to go
working because, did you leave because there was no work inIreland?

Veronica: That really wasn’t it, I was actually studying
languages. I took a year out to first go to Germany. That really was my first
experience abroad and I did it again going to France,
and again for going to Germany
so I left during my studies on occasion three different times. Am? I probably
would have had to go anyway, during that period, during the lat ’80’s early
‘90’s, because I wouldn’t have had summer work in Ireland. Or, I wouldn’t have had
work anyway; it was very difficult to get work.

Loretto: OK we’re talking now about the years that you did
go abroad, during your study years that would be 1988?

Veronica: The first time I went abroad was 1988 to 1989. And
then I did another round in 1990 to ’91, that was in France
and I did another year, I am trying to think; I know I did another small stint
in Germany
somewhere in between. I actually can’t remember the exact date; it’s been so
long ago.

Loretto: Am, the last time you left, when you left from Dublin, when you went for
good…

Veronica: I did yes, I left in 2001

Loretto: That’s significant because that’s when the Celtic
Tiger was at its peak.

Veronica: Yeah, I know. A lot of people find that
interesting that I left Ireland
in the middle of a so-called peak, I say “so called,” because I did try to get
a job in Ireland
before I left. I tried to get a good job. People say to me oh define a good job
and I say it’s when you are paid what you are worth and I found in Ireland,
essentially Irish people were never paid what they were worth. And that was the
case 20 or 30 years ago and I’d say it is still the case today.

Loretto: And what were your qualifications then because I
know that you taught languages at High school level for a while.

Veronica: That’s right when I left university I got a job in
a Convent of Mercy, I kind of ended up where I started, in Athy, teaching a
group of girls. Ah, teaching French and German. I then moved on to a technical
school in Dundalk, just south of the northern Irish border; very interesting
school, radically different from the religious schools that I had attended my
self and the ones I had taught in before as well. And I stayed there for six or
seven years. I, ah, wanted to do something different, not just remain in the
school system. I mean after all, I was brought up in the school system work, went
to the school system, stayed in the school system to teach in it after ward, to
work. So I decided I wanted to do something different and took a career break.
And I ended up working for a VAT reclaiming company in Dublin, just for a year, in Tallaght. And
whilst I was there I decided I wanted to go further afield, I had a look around
for other jobs in Ireland.
I did look for other jobs and I happened to find a job on the internet, for a
software company in Germany
as a translator. And that was my next move then so I went from a teacher to an
account assistant I guess it would have been or account manager to sound writer
and I have since moved on. I am now a technical writer.

Loretto: So you’ve actually been in four different careers
from Teacher, to account manager to translator to……technical writer.

Veronica: Technical writer, yeah. I don’t think I would have
been able to do that in Ireland
actually. I think the only place I would have had to go, obviously teaching
requires a lot of skill, being able to manage people, I feel you have to be
able to manage things, organize things, it’s actually quite a difficult job to
do, but again the skill set is not actually valid, am, when you go elsewhere.

Loretto: Am, good point. When you did leave Veronica, when
you left for good, who took you to thee airport?

Veronica: Believe it or not, I headed off in my car. I knew
I was going to go for good, well I took a career break; I knew I was going for
at least three or four years. So I packed everything into my car so I hit off
for Dublin. I
wanted to go to Dublin, first of all from Dublin port; and from Dublin
to England, from England to France
and from France over to Germany,
that was my plan. When I got to the port, the ferry had broken down, I couldn’t
get a ferry. So the fact of the matter is I went up to the north of Ireland,
and from the North of Ireland to Strabane. From Strabane across to Dover and from Dover across
to Calais. That’s
how I escapedIreland.

Loretto: You’re the challenge to the rule. You’re the only
one, basically I guess who had a car, had a job, had a house, and you decided Ireland
was halting you. Was that how you felt?

Veronica: Yeah. That was it. I was fed up with my life
anyway, as it happened my happy marriage wasn’t working out and I decided, well
first of all I decided I had to make a job change and I did that…..and I
realized I was getting unhappier and unhappier and I decided that the next step
was to just leave. Am? And that’s why I still had my car, my house. I even had
a job in Ireland
when I left.

Loretto: Was it emotional for you Veronica? I mean the
leaving itself, was it emotional or were you already ‘over it’? You just wanted
to leave.

Veronica: I wanted to lave. It was emotional leaving. I did
at the time think that I was going to go back to my teaching job. Because as
you well know, teaching jobs in Ireland,
when you have a permanent position, as I did have, you just don’t leave them
that easily. And I thought, well I had already taken one of my years, and I knew
I had another four years to sort of get my act together. I had my whole life
ahead of me; I still had a lot of options. You know, so I decided I was going
to give this a go, at last two years. Because I didn’t want to go job-hopping,
I wasn’t something I ever would have done. It had been drilled into me that one
did take on a job and stay at it for as long as one could. I still believe that
today, you just can’t keep jumping around, you know?

Loretto: So where did you emigrate to?

Veronica: I emigrated to a nice town in the south of Germanycalled Heidelberg,
a little village south of Heidelberg
to be precise. Where the weather was good, the beer was good and so was the
wine! The people are relatively friendly and I got, well what I still consider
today to be a very good job with a lot of benefits, a lot of perks. And those
benefits and perks kept me going as well for the next two years. So I was
earning pretty good money. Am, in Ireland
back at that time, the teaching is relatively well paid compared to a lot of
other jobs in Ireland,
it still wasn’t enough. I had to travel an awful lot to get to work. I lived in
Dublin, but I worked in Dundalk,
it was 100 mile round trip every day, back and forth in petrol. You couldn’t
claim that money back in tax, or at least you couldn’t at the time, I don’t
know if the rules have changed. I was spending two hundred pounds every month
just getting to and from work. The money, back in the time, wasn’t that good.
They got a lot of pay rises it turned out once I left, which has since been
taken straight back off of them. Since the recession has hit Ireland in the last two years, the
teachers have lost out in a lot of money, which I think is a shame, to be
honest. So yeah, I was kind of happy where I ended up I have to say. Even the
weather was more cheerful than it was inIreland.

Loretto: So why did you choose Germany?  You took a round about route through the
north ofIreland,Dover and throughFrance. Were you trained inGermany?

Veronica: Yeah, I was trained in Germany. I had always, funnily
enough, even when I was growing up, even when I was going to school; I had
always wanted to learn German. I didn’t to learn it until I got to university
in Galway, which was one of the universities
which allowed you to learn it from scratch if you hadn’t learned it at school.
I just found out from my Mom, I grew up in London; she actually had a child minder who
minded me who presumably talked to me in German. I just never realized that
might be where the actual interest in the language had come from. Once I got to
university I knew I would study it and it was one of the first countries I went
abroad to. I actually did quite well there. I managed to find my way around. I
went over with two other girls, we went camping in Munich. I have always had an affinity for the
country because I have always managed to make my way there, even when I was
younger. The reason I took such a long round about route, I suppose it is a little
bit weird. I mean true enough, the ferry had broken down from Dublin
to England,
which certainly was true. I could have waited until the next day. But the fact
was I was desperate to leave. So I drove to Northern Ireland to make sure I got
to leave on the day I wanted to go.

Loretto: You were desperate to lave, but it was important
that you brought the car with you?

Veronica: Yeah, I always needed my mobility. That’s why I
drove up that way. I needed it once I got over to Germany, though it possibly would
have been cheaper to buy a car over there, I just wanted to get the car, go
over there and just b able to travel around and do my own thing. A car is an
element of freedom for me; I wouldn’t be without a car.

Loretto: Were conditions better or worse for you inGermany?

Veronica: They were a lot better for me. The only thing that
would have been worse, was that I was obviously, had been living in a house and
I ended up in a two roomed apartment in this little village. But that’s pretty
much the way everybody lives here, certainly to start off with anyway.
Everybody has an apartment, apartment life is the norm. Am, I found that
difficult. I was used to having a house with a four bedrooms to wander around
in and to call my own, so that was thee only difficulty. Everything else was
easy because it was so much cheaper in Germany and I was paid so much
more. True enough we had perks and health benefits, bonuses and stuff that I
never had when I was a teacher, it just my life a lot easier.

Loretto: Would you ever consider going back toIreland?

Veronica: I don’t think so. Am? I haven’t though about it,
but there’s a lot of things I don’t like about Ireland anymore. Ah, I love the
people, I think the people are pretty much the best people you could meet anywhere.
But I found, especially during the years of the Celtic Tiger, there was a
greedy element that emerged when the Celtic Tiger got going. And I also, it was
clear to me as well when I left the country that I did not like the way the
government dealt with the people at all, I felt that the Irish people were
being cheated. I always have, and I still do feel like that. I know at this
stage they are forced to make decisions that are not particularly popular I
have never had a problem with a government making unpopular decisions but I
have often wondered who is gaining from the decisions that they are making. And
I feel that, certainly at the time when I was in Ireland, the taxes that I was
paying when I was teaching was absolutely scandalous. I was delighted that they
reduced taxes, unfortunately when I left, Am, I though the amount of money that
teachers were earning was an absolute scandal as well, when you consider the
job that they actually had to do. I guess I wouldn’t go back to Ireland
because there are too many benefits that I’ve got here, that I benefit from in
this country, that’s one of the biggest reasons. And the weather would actually
stop me from going back! I mean, my God! You remember Galway!
It poured rain morning, noon and night.

Loretto: It did. Oh Lord, it did!

Veronica: I wasn’t getting rained on anymore!

Loretto: Oh Lord, the hailstones, when you’d cycle out to
Salthill to do the final exams!

Veronica: I do remember lot’s of finer things about Ireland
as well. There are lots of good things. The educational system in Ireland
I feel was very, very good. It’s not too bad here in Germany,
but I found it in Ireland
to be particularly good. But, I don’t think I would fit in in Ireland anymore. I’ve probably
gone, I don’t mean to sound arrogant, I’ve probably just gone too
international. I just deal with too many different types of people here that I
find, in Ireland,
I find, well, we’re an island. We’re insular.

Loretto: Are you glad you emigrated then? I think I already
know the answer to that.

Veronica: I am glad I emigrated. There’s lots of reasons to
that, but I am glad I emigrated. I am particularly glad that I just got up and
went, that I didn’t sit around and, being unhappy with myself. I would have
never forgiven myself for that actually.

Loretto: What advice would you give emigrants leaving today?

Veronica: Not to be as worried as you probably are going.
That you will do well, you will make a life if you’ve made the decision to go.
You are actually leaving, that takes so much courage, you’re not going to have
as many problems, and keep that courage up. The other thing I would say is,
remember that you are going to a new country; it’s not Ireland, that doesn’t mean it’s not
as good. Try and integrate well, get to know the locals. Am, don’t loose your
love of Ireland, but don’t
pretend that Ireland
hasn’t changed or won’t change when you leave. Countries change all the time.

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