Murals: A part of history or an eye sore?

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A mural of Che Guevara, who visited and stayed in Kilkee, West Clare has been painted over prior to a Latin Festival celebrating his visit in 1961. The Che do Bheatha Festival is in its third year. The removal of the mural has caused division among county council representatives.

According to The Irish Examiner, “Kilkee Chamber of Commerce President Johnny Redmond said: “Clare County Council has decided it is graffiti and has removed this harmless mural. This at a time when the council says it has no money to kill the weeds that are growing up through the footpath on the promenade but has time and funds to waste on removing an internationally recognised image in the year of the Gathering with Irish-Argentinians coming to Kilkee for the festival.””

The Che Guevara mural in Killkee, County Clare. (Image Source: Irish Independent)

The Che Guevara mural in Kilkee, County Clare.
(Image Source: Irish Independent)

The Belfast Telegraph said that the mural was removed because due to an increased number of US tourists, the Americans were upset by the Che mural. “The Americans left town after seeing the mural. The face of Guevara, who visited Kilkee in 1961, had adorned the same spot for the previous two Che do Bheatha festivals.”

Belfast should know a thing or two about the historical importance of murals. The slideshow above (all pictures are my own. Taken in August 2009) is of murals in the city of Belfast depicting the troubles, the heroes of both sides, and historical figures, such as Guevara, that were revered for their patriotism. Taxi and bus tours of Belfast city include the murals in their informational tours.

Jim Fitzpatrick's iconic image of Che Guevara

Jim Fitzpatrick’s iconic image of Che Guevara

The image depicted of Che Guevara was made famous by Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick, whom I interviewed by telephone in November 2011. You can read the interview here. Fitzpatrick met Guevara when he visited County Clare during a  flight stopover in 1961.

Should the Kilkee mural have been painted over or removed because it upset a few Americans? I don’t think so. And I do hope that the Clare County Council will redo the image. Regardless of whether you admire or despise Che Guevara, it is just a mural, and if the locals aren’t offended, why should a tourist be offended?

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Ronnie Curley owner of Curley’s Pub in Portumna, Co. Galway.

Ronnie Curley's Pub in Portumna, County Galway in Ireland. At one time there were twenty pubs in the town. In 2012 nine pubs remain in business.

Ronnie Curley owner of Curley’s Pub in Portumna, Co. Galway.

(The phone call took place over a cell phone connection to Ireland and the audio is difficult to hear. )

I mentioned that there has been a 25% decline since 2007 in drinking in pubs.

Ronnie Curley has been in business as the proprietor of Curley’s Pub for more than thirty years.

Well sure 2007, Since 2010 and 2011 there’s been a “big decline.”

No particular age group affected-     ‘across the board’ impact.

The pubs are “closing left right and center,” in the town of Portumna.

“We had in excess of 20 pubs in town years ago, …….now we have 9.”

¾ of a pint of Guinness would be all you could drink in order to remain within the limit.

With the new strict drinking and driving laws- “people are taking it that you can’t drink and drive now.”

“You may see people chancing an odd one, the locals might chance two or three.”

The off-licenses have to be doing a “big bit better,” according to Curley. Even his own children when they go out with their friends will have a couple of drinks in the house before they go anywhere. “They’ll have a few drinks before they go to the pub.”

You wouldn’t see the older people out for a drink at night during the week.

There is a decline in the numbers of people coming into the bars and Curley agrees that the supermarkets are selling below costs and also that the off-licenses are selling merchandise from parts of Europe and the North of Ireland. Curley also concurs with Kinsale off license owner Ken Murphy on the legal loophole which allows the larger super markets to sell certain alcohol items below cost. Reclaiming the VAT is mentioned. There is no lowest price allowed by law to sell liquor and alcohol in Ireland. But there are groups who are pressuring the government to get that changed.

What does he see for the future of pubs in Ireland? Is there a future?

“I don’t know. Things seem to be changing a lot. Now there’s other factors after affecting Portumna…”

He mentions the burning down of the Shannon Oaks Hotel in 2011. That has affected the business trade of pubs in the town.

“The pub trade has changed every year since I’ve started.” He mentions that his busiest days during the week were Tuesdays and Thursdays, the mart days. The older farmers would come in after selling some livestock, “have a few drinks and drive home.” He adds that,  “All that has changed now.”

The pubs that once stayed open all day, now open their doors at four or later. What’s keeping pubs going now he says are 21st, or Hen Nights and Bachelor Parties.

Ken Murphy proprietor of Kinsale 1601, an off –license (Liquor store) in Kinsale, County Cork in Ireland.

1601 Kinsale, Off-License (Liquor Store)

Ken Murphy proprietor of Kinsale 1601, an off –license (Liquor store) in Kinsale, County Cork in Ireland.

Loretto: Ken you were talking a little bit there about new laws by the government to control and I suppose to make money on the sale of liquor and alcohol. When did all that start, is that new or what is that all about?

Ken : Well basically what has happened in the last four or five years in Ireland there has been a big focus on certain issues, whether they be anti-social behavior, whether it is people turning up at A&E’s in hospitals because they have drank too much on a night out, they are playing political football and they are getting plenty of air time out of it, but what has happened is that the New health minister is pushing through a new health bill and it is going to control the licensing in Ireland, regarding am, who is going to be able to sell alcohol and am when they are going to be able to sell alcohol. Its political football at the moment, it’s really being kicked around and given bad press. And unfortunately it is the 10% who have a problem with alcohol who are getting most of the pity, the other percent of the people don’t. And I think they are the ones who are going to suffer from it, you know?

Loretto: Is it because of the election year or is it because….?

Ken: I don’t think it is, the election was last year. I am not really sure. Four years ago, there was a groceries order (Law passed) it was in place. The previous government decided to abolish the groceries order which allowed the big multiple grocery markets to basically go nuts! Selling, you know? Using alcohol as a loss leader. In it is such a case that a can of beer now is cheaper than a bottle of water in Ireland. And that has created its own problems you know? And I think they are trying to reign in that monster if you know what I mean? Because when supermarkets use below cost selling, the government, like I was telling Kevin, they are subsidizing the below cost selling because the supermarkets can claim back the VAT (Value Added Tax) on their sales, so the government was subsidizing the below cost selling by 21%. And they are trying to close all these loop holes and am, you know just tighten up the whole thing, making it difficult you know, I think for the industry, but there implications on that. Young people are over exposed to alcohol in my view between sports, advertising sport and am advertising on TV etc, etc. I can see it; I can see it here in the store with young people coming in. I think they are drinking hard liquor, you know, in my own view, as a member of the Off-License Association of Ireland we make suggestions, we lobby the minister but I think the opinion is, if they don’t think of the idea, the idea is not going to be put in place you know?

Loretto: And there is an age that you are allowed to start drinking in Ireland. Do they require that Liquor stores and pubs require these young people to show Identification?

Ken: Absolutely, we are very strict about that Loretta, ah? I am twenty three years in this business and I know young kids what they are like. Fifteen, sixteen, it is glamorized. They see celebrities drinking you know? They want to act older than they are, they want to grow up too quick, so they are always going to try and get alcohol. The biggest problem in Ireland is, and I am sure everywhere else, is secondary purchasing, you know? Which you can’t control. If someone has got the legal age of eighteen and they’ve got the ID to go with it, you are obliged to serve them, unfortunately what is happening is that they are buying alcohol for their younger brother, cousin, a friend, and you know that’s what happens.

Loretto: That is the norm over here too so basically you
have someone who is of age buying for an underage drinker.

Ken: Yeah, of age. That’s a big problem. To be honest with you we made suggestions to the minister that they should come down harder on these guys, they should maybe do some entrapments or try to do a sting operation and catch these guys who are buying the alcohol for the younger generation. And publicly admonish them and humiliate them. Embarrass them for getting caught doing it, but at the moment it is almost a laissez faire attitude. “Ah sure look! Everyone does that.”

Loretto: Now since the recession officially began have you noticed a difference in the number of people coming into your store as opposed to going to the pub?

Ken: Negatively would be my response to that Loretto, ah? The biggest problem for Kinsale and a lot of pubs around rural Ireland has been emigration. And your customer base has been eroded away in the last four years because people have left, and I mean to the tune of 70,000 people a year, between the age groups of 18-25 are leaving Ireland. Every year. That attached to all the guys in construction, ie: Europeans, they did all their drinking at home, they didn’t socialize in bars, and all those guys have left as well. It has left a big down turn in the last four years. And between all the downward pressure on pricing, because of the groceries order and the explosion of competition from European discount stores, German discount stores, they’ve all come into Ireland and created competition. So it’s tough. A bit of a decline as opposed to an increase. They all say, you must be doing well, people are all drinking at home, and I respond, yeah, there’s a lot more people drinking at home, but a lot more people have left the country as well. Funnily enough and ironically enough my last years’ turnover was exactly the same as the previous years’, but I did about ten thousand more transactions, so people are spending way less as well.

Loretto: Yeah, so they are buying, but they are not buying the big priced stuff.

Ken: Their spending is way down!

Loretto: Yeah, Is it cheaper for them to buy at a liquor store than go to a pub nowadays?

Ken: Absolutely. You can buy a bottle of ah, Miller for maybe 70 cents, in an off-license and the same bottle of Miller would cost you four Euros and fifty at the bar.

Loretto: Right, wow!

Ken: And on top of that, combined would be the smoking ban as well. That really has put a lot of pressure on the pubs As well as that there’s the cultural change, the people are no longer happy to just sit in the pub and drink all night. They are looking for more of an all-round experience. They want to have food, maybe some entertainment you know? So the restaurants are busier. Definitely bars are a lot quieter.

Loretto: Oh wow! So restaurants would be taking the business from the bars.

Ken : Yeah, I think the restaurants are, you know they’ve got comfortable surroundings, I mean they have music going on in the background, they are doing a lot better than the straight traditional Irish pub that has serving drink that might have a bit of music on.

Loretto: Do you think that we are witnessing the end of the Irish pub?

Ken: I would 100% say yeah, we are. I mean in Kinsale alone there was about six bars closed last year, and it’s a small town. It was a bog industry in the town, and I would say that there’s probably another two to three bars going to close again this year.

Loretto: Wow, That’s pretty sad because that is a cultural icon that is coming to an end.

Ken: Well it’s important a lot of these places were social outlets, it was a meeting place, it was a lot more than a public house that just served alcohol. A place to meet friends and relatives catch up with the news, that sort of stuff and the goal on that was alcohol. But along with that there has been a decrease in the drink driving limit they have it down to about 50mls per unit of blood, blood unit of alcohol.

Loretto: And what does that mean Ken, what is 10mls roughly? Is it a pint of Guinness?

Ken: It’s less than a pint, it’s about three quarters of a pint, would have you over the limit. And as well as that they have check points early in the mornings. So a guy goes out the night before, being responsible,  he takes a taxi home, he’s not driving, he goes to bed. Gets up to go to work in the morning maybe at seven thirty and is stopped and bagged, breathalysed.

Loretto: So even the day after?

Ken: The day after, it’s incredible what’s going on. And this is the next morning, maybe the guy could have finished drinking at 12 o’clock the previous night, gone home to bed. He might have had five or six pints, before his body has even enough time to process the alcohol, and he gets up and get’s into the car six hours later and he’s breathalysed, he can be put off the road basically, you know?

Loretto: Wow! And it’s kind of ironic in a way that the government is cracking down in a way with the prices and the control, the regulation of alcohol and yet, the supermarkets, you called it the Groceries order, am I right?

Ken: Yeah, correct the groceries order.

Loretto: So basically you can buy a bottle of beer for cheaper than a bottle of water?

Ken: Yeah, you can buy a can of unbranded beer for 79 cent. Or half a liter.

Loretto: And that exists because of the loop hole where they can claim back the VAT and all that?

Ken: Absolutely, because it is downward pressure. Because of the ban on the groceries order, they are using alcohol as their loss leader. You could open any Sunday paper today, just open the second page and you’ll see all the top multiple supermarkets advertising alcohol. It is ironic, you know. You’d have a  front page headline from a national paper saying that we are a nation of drunks and that we need to cop ourselves on and we need social responsibility and then you open the next page and they are taking advertising money from supermarkets that are selling cheap alcohol.

Loretto: That’s unbelievable, unbelievable.

Ken: It’s unreal, if you weren’t sober it would be funny, Loretta.

Loretto: Now, how long have you been in the business Ken?

Ken: Personally here in Kinsale, I am here nearly nine years now, but working in the off-license trade in Ireland since I was twelve, so 31 years.

Loretto: And Kinsale is very much a tourist town, over the last nine years, between everything that has happened you have seen big changes.

Ken : I have seen a huge change, ah, there’s been a whole load of financial stuff going on worldwide, so in Kinsale it does affect our business,  and there’s definitely been a contraction, the American market is very important to Kinsale. They stopped travelling a few years back but, also in England and in Europe they’re the same, their very important and again, they’re feeling the pinch. Things are not running, you know? There’s less people travelling, and in saying that, there’s more of our own people staying at home. We’re not travelling abroad as much, but the spending is way down. When they come to Kinsale you know, they want a cheap room, they may not go to a bar, they might come to my shop, buy a bottle of wine, go back to the hotel room, then go out later on for a drink, something like that. You know? The spending money is way, way down.

Loretto: Do you see an end to all of this or no?

Ken: Am? I think we’re going to bounce along the bottom for the next couple of years. I am hoping like I said to you earlier in the conversation, our turnover last year was pretty much the same as the previous year, so hopefully we’ve reached the bottom and we’ll probably bounce around for I would say nearly five years.

Loretto: OK, well Thanks very much Ken. It’s been an interesting conversation. We’ll hopefully pop into see you the next time we are in Kinsale.

Liam Edwards proprietor of the Jim Edwards Bar and Restaurant in Kinsale, County Cork.

The Jim Edwards Bar and Restaurant in Kinsale, County Cork in Ireland.

Liam Edwards proprietor of the Jim Edwards Bar and Restaurant in Kinsale, County Cork.

Loretto: How long have you been at the Jim Edwards Pub and Restaurant in Kinsale?

Liam: Well, it is in its 40th year. It is the longest running establishment in Kinsale. Under one owner.

Loretto: That is fantastic, congratulations on that. You have been in the business so long that you would have witnessed a difference in numbers? Have you seen things change in the last 10 years?

Liam: Basically you have seen the demise of the drinking trade in the pubs over the last 10 years. We have concentrated on food, but even that, we have seen a demise in.…where people would have come to have a meal and a couple of drinks, the now have their meal and a glass of wine. The bottle of wine is gone, they now just have their glass of wine. The Irish coffee business is gone, you know that kind of a way? And in the old days when the older gentleman would come out for his pint, that business is completely gone. Before, we had a night trade, where at about 10 o’clock these older gentlemen would come in can have their drinks, to have a pint and a drop, they passed away, and no one replaced them, that business is totally gone.

Loretto: So, the local trade is gone?

Liam: Yeah, there are still some bars that do the local trade.

Loretto: And what do you think has contributed to the demise of that trade?

Liam: It would vary with the different age levels. A lot of them would be drinking at home as well, you know? What used to happen was that people would meet up at the pub, but now they meet up at your house.  I suppose what you do have now, which is a problem, is the huge, massive supermarkets selling the drinking so cheap. So they are watching their money, they’re getting their nice bottle of wine, their nice bottle of champy at home, they are meeting their friends and they’re coming out a bit later. With the younger generation, they are getting their alcohol pops at home, like, the night club owners are saying that the average spend for a customer is about €15 per night, you know, they’re coming out so late, they’ve had their drink at home, they are just going out to socialize really now like you know? That’s a big factor, the drinking at home. And with the older generation, the plus 50s, the reason they don’t come out to drink anymore is because of the drunk driving. It basically they can’t have a pint and then get into their car and drive home, the midweek drinking has been killed by that. I wouldn’t say killed by it, I obviously do agree with the drink driving laws, you know, but it has done damage to the midweek pub trade. Where you would need able to get a designated driver on the weekend, they’d be going out in threes or fours, or going out for a meal then somebody decides not to drink, but during the week if somebody wants a couple of drinks, you just have to stay at home basically.

Loretto: And in town like Kinsale, Liam, that is a great tourist town, have you seen pubs close their doors in the last few years?

Liam: Oh yeah! Outside my window, one of the biggest local bars, has just closed its doors before Christmas. So I would say four or five of the local bars have definitely closed in the last four or five years, I am saying the local bars now, the drinking bars, they’ve just closed down.

Loretto: So the ones that have a fighting chance, are the ones that serve food, are restaurants and have accommodations?

Liam: Well for us personally, that’s the kind of angle, before the recession, we decided we would concentrate a lot on food like, they are the ones with a fighting chance. I think that in every town about Kinsale’s size there is room for about three or four drinking bars. Were they would just concentrate on the drink, but going back 10 years ago there would have been 10 of these bars but now there’s only room for three or four in a town the size of Kinsale. You know?

Loretto: Now, somebody did tell me that a government official came out and said that he was going to deliberately change the drinking culture in Ireland? And I guess, they were trying to enforce and maybe have successfully done so, some very strict laws. Do you think that that has contributed to the demise of these pubs?

Liam: Yeah. Especially the location of the country pubs. That definitely is the demise of it. I suppose the drink driving laws are a bit of a catch 22 situation, number one they are trying to do very good and it is hard for the publicans not to stand up and say, “ you can’t say that we can’t get into it.” But I think a lot of these statistics of the drink driving laws are misinterpreted. The fellow coming in and having two or three pints is less likely to cause  an accident than the young lad that is driving around for five in the morning, you know what I mean? I don’t know how you would balance that out, I don’t think it’s possible. You can’t have one law for another, and one law for some people, you know? Having said that, the government are still fighting in our corner or in another way. They are trying to improvise this cheap alcohol that is being given out, the kind of trying to make a price structure on that. That will help us a little bit, you know, definitely.

Loretto: Are they trying to unify the prices of the alcohol that is being sold?

Liam: Yeah. I can honestly say that the supermarkets would be selling drink for very little margin just to get people in their door and I think they’re using drink as a base just to get people in their door which shouldn’t  be, alcohol shouldn’t  be used as a bait  because of it’s dangers obviously, you know. And people are saying look I  can get 20 bottles of beer for €20, and then you come into a bar and it is four euros a bottle. I think the comparison is a bit unfair for the publican who has these massive overheads, these massive rates,… These massive… You know?

Loretto: Now, have you seen a lot of immigration in Kinsale? Has that affected your business?

Liam: You would. A lot of the younger clientele that you would’ve seen throughout the years, they are just now coming in anymore. And you wonder, are they gone? Have they lost their jobs? Are they just not going out? So, I know personally myself I have a lot of friends who are gone. They are not gone to Australia for a lifestyle change, as one politician said, you know? They are gone for work, and for the money, and to survive, and hopefully save a bit like you know? You do see it, it is everywhere, like, you know?

Loretto: I see on the web here that some pubs are just opening for the high peak season. Is that one strategy that you are seeing?

Liam: Yeah. You will see that more in the color bar trade where it is not that expensive to have one man behind the bar, and you just hope for the best like you know? But they are not making money. I say in Kinsale a lot of the pubs are open year-round. You find with the restaurants, inadvertently with their drinks trade, that they’d close throughout the winter. They can’t take a chance with the volume of chefs they have to bring in. Do you know what I mean? But I would  say that the pubs are open, but they are just curtailing their hours. You know? Where a pub would open at half 10 in the morning, by law they don’t open now until 4 or 5 you know? Like, you can drive through town now, if you were on your way to Dublin and you just veered off to a town, I would say there would be two or three pubs open in a large town during the week, during the day as well you know? They all start opening at about five or six because there is no trade there during the day anymore like you know?

Loretto: You yourself Liam, have you seen a change in the volume of tourists coming to Kinsale over the last 3 to 5 years?

Liam: To be quite honest, about three years ago the volume was down. What we find out with the Irish tourists, and with the foreign tourists as well is that we are getting the people in but, they are spending less. So, we are working as hard but were not making the same amount of money, if you know what I mean? Like, they are spending less, like. I think the biggest battle is to get them in the door, and if they’re going to spend less, they are going to spend less, there’s nothing you can do about that. So you would find, like I said before, that he used to start a night out at seven, but not anymore. They go out a bit later and there’s always one person who is not drinking. They’re spending less, basically they’re just spending less you know? Is not the volume, the volume of tourists in Kinsale is good, you know?

Loretto: Well, it has always been a nice tourist town and hopefully that will help the bar and tourist trade.

Liam: Yeah. Hopefully.

Loretto: Liam  thank you very much.

Jobless Paddy Interview: Feilim Mac an Iomaire

Feilim Mac an Iomaire hit the headlines in Ireland in May when he spent the last of his savings, two thousand euro, on a billboard.

The billboard campaigned for potential employers to save “Jobless Paddy” from emigration.

Mac an Iomaire was offered five jobs and now works as a communications executive for Paddy Power.

In a telephone interview, Mac an Iomaire discusses emigration, how he came up with the idea for the billboard and his advice for those who are faced with emigration.

Loretto Horrigan Interview

Miriam: Hi this is Lonnie, Loretto.

Loretto: Yep! This is me. Miriam is now going to interview
me. Fire away.

Miriam: Why did you leave Ireland?

Loretto: Well I’ll tell you, I think to be honest am, the
most important question is for me, when did I leave Ireland. Because the truth
is I left Ireland in November 1987. Am, I did not get accepted to college when
you all did because, I didn’t know this at the time, but they forgot to add on
the results of my oral Irish. Do you remember this Miriam?

Miriam: Yes.

Loretto: And as far as I was concerned, I had failed Honors
Irish. And you needed Irish back then to get into university. So I packed my
bags, didn’t tell my parents that I was leaving because I thought they would
talk me out of it. Contacted an aunt in America (I said Australia but I was
focused on the wrong continent!) She paid for my ticket. And then when my
parents found out two weeks before I left, sure enough there was a bit of guilt
inducement, am. But I left Ireland in November 1987, intentionally leaving for
good, and I was very bitter, to be quite honest. I was very angry, I was very
upset because I thought that Ireland had been very unfair to me. And am, in
all, in hindsight the truth is it was pure immaturity as well. My twin sister,
Margaret, got into college and I didn’t.

Miriam: But you did not know the basis of your results?

Loretto: No I didn’t. I thought I had failed the Irish, I
felt stupid. I felt like a failure, I felt stupid.

Miriam: How long did you stay away for then?

Loretto: I stayed away, at that point I came and did some
babysitting and cleaned houses, am, and I stayed away for, I think it was
almost a year. And it was the best thing I ever did because I went back to
college and I was loaded. (Laughs) I had so much money!

Miriam: By that point they had rectified the mistake that
they had made?

Loretto: Well then what happened was, about six months after
I got notified by the teacher who had taught Irish, Sheila McLaughlin, that she
had done some investigation and that she had found out they had forgotten to
add on the oral Irish results and that I had gotten an honor in Honors Irish,
so that they were deferring my placement for a year, it was their fault. So I
ended up starting university a year behind everybody else.

Miriam: So when you were done then with university then, why
then did you leave, why did you not stay in Ireland.

Loretto: Why did I leave? Because I got a taste of America
and I wanted to go. I was one of those ….

Miriam: Talking capitalism there!

Loretto: Oh money, money, money!

Miriam: Money, money, money!

Loretto: You know what it was? I saw opportunity. I saw
opportunity and I think, I’ll be very honest with you. You’ll remember that I
went to England for a few months to work with you guys? And I like London, don’t
get me wrong, but the Irish were, in this part of America, they adored the
Irish. The Irish accent was like, am? They were enamored with it. And I loved
that. They really did. And I was really scared in London because the IRA were
going crazy bombing just before Christmas and I, I was ashamed of being Irish
at points. I think I told you that there was a, there was one stage when I was
on a train going to visit Marcella (my sister who lived in Romford, Essex) and
it was supposedly a ‘fast’ train. And we were on it, it was like an hour,
sitting on the tracks not moving because they were diffusing a bomb. Do you
remember that? And this woman sat opposite me and she was going, “Bloody Irish,”
and I was absolutely terrified and I was embarrassed about being Irish, I was
ashamed about being Irish.

Miriam: So then, you found conditions to be better in
America than you did in London or in Ireland?

Loretto: I’ll be honest. I found London good because there
was a paycheck. I liked the independence of living away from home, having
money, but I really, really, am? I missed living in a house. I did not like
living in that small room in the hotel, not at all! I am not a city person,
even though London is a beautiful city. Am, I am not a city person. I’m, ah, I
like to go visit a city, but I like to come home to the country.

Miriam: Now would you move back to Ireland based on that?

Loretto: Am. I certainly will never move back to Ireland.

Miriam: Based on your circumstances here or you just don’t
want to go back?

Loretto: I do not want to go back to Ireland. I remember
when my mother was alive, and we had bought land in Ireland with the intention
of moving back there, like as a summer home or whatever, when we got older, and
she said “Would you not think of coming back for good.” And I said to her, and
this was after, I think this was after about three years of living in America, and
I had been married for year now at that point. I said, “Do you remember how
hard I cried when I was leaving Ireland?” And she said “Yeah,” and I said, “Well
multiply that by ten if I had to come back.” And it is not that I hate Ireland,
and it’s not that I had any animosity towards Ireland. I don’t feel that I was
driven out, but for some reason, in my heart and soul, I knew I was born to
emigrate. I wasn’t meant to stay in Ireland. I felt confined in Ireland. I felt
there were no opportunities for me.

Miriam: Do you not think that that is based on twenty years
ago and today, times have changed?

Loretto: Absolutely not. I think the government has actually
shown us how corrupt it is.

Miriam: But even so, isn’t that based on a small minority? I
mean the people themselves are still the same?

Loretto: Yeah, but the thing is, even though we have a vote…..I
really don’t think…..unless, as you said, unless the people revolt and do
something drastic like what is happening in Egypt or what they did in the
streets of London, not that I am advocating that,

Miriam: Or like in New York at the moment.

Loretto: And they are doing in New York, exactly, I think
that the Irish are very complacent and I think we need to be proactive, now I
think it’s wonderful that we haven’t gone out and kicked down windows of shops
or anything like that. But I think we need to shake up our government. They
need to shake up the government. The government has led the Irish people
astray. And it has used the Irish people as like, a cash cow. And there is an
elitist attitude in Ireland that is so wrong. I mean there’s jobs that are just
cushy jobs and you go into them for life because they are cushy, because you
won’t be worked to death and you’ll have
a good pension for the rest of your life. And I think, you know in all
fairness, certain things that have happened since the boom came to an end, is a
good thing. Other things that were highlighted such as the greed, that was bad.
But I do think that there were certain jobs that were protected in Ireland, for
too long. And that there was a real sense of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who
you know’ that was……

Miriam: But I think that that goes on most places.

Loretto: I don’t think so. Not in America, I really think if
you wanted to be a journalist in America, you could do it. But in Ireland, and
I think too it was because we are an island, we’re insular and we’re isolated
in a way and we have only x number of seats in universities for a huge
population, now maybe that’s changed. But do you remember how competitive it
was?

Miriam: It was competitive.

Loretto: It was very competitive, the pressure was great and
maybe that has changed now but I do remember that the leaving cert itself, the
final exam in secondary school, high school, when we were doing the leaving
cert; One third of the people doing their leaving cert got into university and then
one third of that group actually graduated. Those were the statistics back
then. And if you look at our picture, I hate saying this, but if you look at
our picture Miriam, the statistics were actually, they are accurate. They are
accurate.

Miriam: I think actually then, based on what you are talking
about is that everyone has a circumstance, everyone has a story. Is that going
back to immigration do you think or is it based on the individual choice? You know
what I mean? We could have stayed in Ireland, gone on welfare and then become
part of the Celtic Tiger.

Loretto: Am, really I don’t. I think am, everything boils down
to choice. But I also think that in your gut, if it doesn’t feel right you simply
won’t do it. And to me, staying in Ireland, my gut instinct said, I cannot do
it. I can’t do it. Now I’m not saying it was easy to leave. And you know there
is one question I need to ask you as well, but I’ll answer it now and then I’ll
ask you towards the end. I forgot to ask you, but I’ll answer it myself now
first. It’s not easy to leave. The advice that I would give to people who are
leaving today is, do not expect Ireland to remain stagnant. It is not going to
not change, and your families are not going to not change. I think the biggest,
biggest shock that I got was three years after being away, I hadn’t been home
for about two years because we were saving money for a house and what have you.
And I went back and my brother Michael came out to the house, and I hadn’t seen
him in two years. To me it was the blink of an eye, and he had gone grey overnight.
And it just….I remember….I remember hugging him in the am, I remember hugging
him in the sitting room, and walking into the kitchen and just crying my eyes
out because you realize; I am getting upset! (Laughs)

Miriam: Well time goes by.

Loretto: As an emigrant, that is the most difficult part of
emigration, you are missing out on an awful lot. And I think, if you can’t
handle that, stay home, because it is a big chunk of your life that you are
giving up. I have missed out on seeing nieces and nephews grow up, get married,
have their own children, I couldn’t be there when my mother was dying, really I
couldn’t be there for certain things that I wanted to be there for.

Miriam: But is that not your own regret as opposed to being
forced out of a country that has no jobs for you. Like at the end of the day,
you’re working here in America, like if you had money, for me we’re close to
Ireland, that if you want to go home, you can go home.

Loretto: But you see for me, I found it easier, because of
that lump in my throat when I saw; I guess the Celtic Tiger for me made it
easier, because things were changing so fast in Ireland, it wasn’t home
anymore. But for those first three years I missed Ireland a lot, and it was
easier for me not to go home that often because I didn’t have to deal with the
homesickness. Do you know what I mean?

Miriam: There’s the difference there.

Loretto: Anne said that she doesn’t understand the
sentimentality of it, but I do, I do. I do understand the sentimentality of it.
My only way of dealing with that is not to go back that often, because
inevitably when I sit on that airplane, when I’m coming home. Kevin will tell
you this, I get very quiet. I can’t talk for about half an hour and then I am
fine.

Miriam: Is this coming back from Ireland?

Loretto: Coming back from Ireland, because  I know things will change, and it’s not going
to change any differently or that I’ll have any control over it even if I am
there.

Miriam: Doesn’t everybody change?

Loretto: Doesn’t everybody change. And I think it is the
inevitability of, they are going to change, we’re all getting older, and that’s
just the way it is. And you know that’s the biggest part about being an
emigrant. You cannot be there for everything.

Miriam O’Brien Interview

Loretto: Where did you go after our graduation from UCG in
1991?

Miriam: After we graduated I think we went to the college
bar! (Laughs)

Loretto: You and Me! We did yeah!

Miriam: The college bar, but after that? Am? When did we
graduate, in ’91? Oh I’m sorry, where did we go to, when did I leave Ireland?

Loretto: Did you leave Ireland after that?

Miriam: Yes I did.

Loretto: So where did you go?

Miriam: Where did I go? I went straight to London.

Loretto: OK. So why did you choose London?

Miriam: Well, because I had been there before for a summer
job.

Loretto: OK. So you were familiar with it?

Miriam: Yes, and it was quite close to home and it was
relatively cheap to get there so, I had gone there for a couple of summers during
our college years, so it was just a boat trip back and I was familiar with it.

Loretto: OK. What were conditions in Ireland like
when you were leaving?

Miriam: You know it’s funny. I was thinking about what you
were going to actually ask me on this interview and I suppose one of the
questions was why did I leave Ireland? And I suppose if I was to be honest
about it, the technical answer would be because the economy went through a
slump and there was like no jobs. But then I was thinking about it again and
that’s actually not answer for me. If I am actually really honest about it, I
left Ireland because I really wanted to go and travel. And yes, probably the
economy had an impact on my decision to leave, where as if there was loads of
jobs in Ireland and I got what was defined then as a good job then, I probably
would have got a good job, stayed, worked in it for a couple of years, and then
maybe decided to travel. Because I suppose there was no option to go into a
good job straight from College, I wanted to travel and therefore for me, I don’t
hold any sort of animosity against why I left Ireland and remember the conditions
being so bad, I do remember them being bad but I don’t remember that being my
criteria for leaving. I really just wanted to go, get out and see the world
after spending, what, six years in school, studying for my leaving cert and
then spending four years or whatever trying to get through college, I was quite
young. So to be honest with you really that is why I left Ireland.

Loretto: So the next question might be redundant. Was it
emotional for you to leave then?

Miriam: No. To be honest with you I had the support of my
parents. My Mum would always say go and travel, it’s probably the best thing
you could ever do, and go and see the place. So whenever I left Ireland for summers,
I never saw it as ‘Oh I am never returning again. I am leaving Ireland never to
be seen again.’ Sort of, this is something that I chose to do with my life especially
in my twenties I suppose. It became something so natural in my life, so no. I
didn’t am? I wasn’t forced out, so.

Loretto: Were conditions better or worse for you in your new
country?

Miriam: Conditions were different because I was working.
When I was in Ireland I never worked therefore I was always relying either on
my parents or as I say a summer job or on money for college, we worked in the
evenings, I worked during the summers. So when I went to London I was working
full time, so I didn’t have really, any responsibilities so therefore
conditions of course were better because all I required at the time was a
paycheck, so conditions would have been better, but was saying ‘Oh I am going
to be in this job for the next twenty years,’ for me it was just a means to
move on to somewhere else.

Loretto: Right. How long were you in London Miriam?

Miriam: I have been…you know it’s funny I was thinking about
this, where have I been since I left Ireland? I was in London for three years
and then I moved on and I came to New York in 1994

Loretto: So you came to America in 1994. Why did you choose
to come to America in 1994, why did you not stay in London?

Miriam: The reason I stayed in London was because it was
nearer and ….

Loretto: But why did you not stay there?

Miriam: A friend of mine had been, had travelled to New York
and had been illegal here for a few years and then got a visa and came to visit
me while in London. And she was like, I just sort of didn’t know where my big next
step was, sort of, to go, and I was in a job in London anyway and am? I just
thought maybe it would be fun to go try America out. I had no intention ever of
coming to New York but at the same time I thought, well if I get a visa, sure
it was free to apply, you just had to send in your post card and I happened to
be one of those lucky ones which I found out a few years later, to get one of
the Morrison Visas.

Loretto: So you had actually won a Morrison Visa then?

Miriam: Yeah.

Loretto: When you left Ireland did you intend to go back at
some point and live there or were you intent on emigrating for good?

Miriam: I had no intent of leaving Ireland for good, nor do
I still do. When I was leaving Ireland I was leaving just to go find and see
the world and see what was going on. I always go home. I always go back home to
visit. I go home, I still want to go home. I don’t ever see myself as having
fully emigrated in my mind, whether I have done so outside of myself but I
still see myself going back home.

Loretto: So that would be my next question, will you ever go
back to live in Ireland? So I guess I’ll change it. When do you think you will
go back to live in Ireland?

Miriam: When they revolt. (Laughs) And finally the Irish
people might stand up for themselves like maybe the Egyptians or the New Yorkers
are and fight with the government that has robbed them for the last ten years.
Then maybe I’ll be able to go back, but……to be honest with you…

Loretto: But sure go back and become the Prime Minister.

Miriam: (Laughs) No, I’ll get Anne to do that. I could do it
and she could write the speeches!

Loretto: But sure I’ll write the speeches!

Miriam: You’ll write the speeches! (Laughs) There you go,
yes and Anne could be my legal spokesperson, or Pauline could! No. The
corruption that has gone on in Ireland and what I’ve seen has not deterred me
from wanting to go back there and I think the reason I want to go back there is
because I have never lived or worked in Ireland by choice. I was raised there,
went to school there  and I was educated
there and left. My family is still there. Now, I don’t have this romantic
notion of Ireland, like, Oh we’ll go back there and live in the green fields and
that. I do know that there is a bad economy, the climate is pretty bad and the
country has just been destroyed by greed. But for me, the country, it’s not about
that. It’s something engrained in me about the place. I don’t know why I know
that but that, I do believe I wasn’t driven out. I left Ireland by choice and
now I think for me the next move will be the biggest adventure, trying to go
back and fit in.

Loretto: Yeah. So would you say that emigration has been
beneficial for you Miriam?

Miriam: Am? I have never look at myself as being an emigrant
but I guess I am I suppose virtually about, but, yeah. Absolutely. I think if I
had a good job back in Ireland after college, I think if it had been available
at the time I think I may have stayed and worked and got caught up in what
life, circumstances throw at you. I am glad that I left. I have been to, I was
able to travel to numerous countries, worked in numerous countries and as such,
I have been in New York now for the last nearly twenty years and I think from
being in different countries and working with different people, different races
and cultures has made me more of a rounded person, more free thinking. But
having said that, I think people would say well why then would you want to go
back to Ireland? I am Irish, that’s where I was born and I, that’s where I want
to raise my family and that’s where I want to stay, to live for the next twenty
years, if possible.

Loretto: Yeah. Now you’ve also been to, you’ve worked in
Australia for a little bit too?

Miriam: Yes.

Loretto: Was that a different experience than from America
and England?

Miriam: Yes, because I didn’t have a visa and I was working purely
as chopped liver, (Laughs)  and I took
some time out from New York I was going through a period in my life where I
needed to and Trish was there and we just got caught up, reconnected. You know
I got to see a part of a country that I may have never been exposed to, I am so
glad that I did now. And am, I was sort of glad that I was here in New York,
that I changed, that I didn’t go to Australia first from Ireland, because I
believe that it is very far away from home and I may have ended up there not by
choice but by circumstance. And purely because of proximity I am so glad that I
am in New York and not Australia. And it only has to do with a distance from
Ireland, that is the only reason.

Loretto: Yeah. Now do you think you would have had as many opportunities
open to you in Ireland if you had stayed there?

Miriam: I think what I would have had to do, if I was staying
in Ireland, I would had had to take, or get my dad to get a bank loan and I
would had had to just go and suck it up and become a teacher, get more
education, or go do that business course that they were offering which would
have cost me five thousand pounds at the time or something and I didn’t have
the cash to do that. And I wasn’t going to ask my parents to do that after they
put me through college. So I though by travelling for a couple of years, I
could sort of figure out what I wanted to do because I did not know what I wanted
to do so that was I think ultimately the, if I wanted to be a teacher or a
nurse then ultimately I think I probably would have stayed, gotten a job, and
either be going back if I had travelled or if I had stayed … I don’t know. I
suppose with everything that happened in the last ten years you’d think if you
were there you hoped that you would have made a wise decision and not got
caught up in the greediness that started. I don’t know.

Loretto: What advice would you give young emigrants leaving
Ireland today?

Miriam: From a practical point of view, get informed about
what you need to, which country you want to go to which the lifestyle that you
are looking for, how much money you may need when you get there, get a budget
to set up for a place, find someone that you know, or if you have no body, say
if you are going to Canada and you have nobody there, then get as much
information as you can and just stay safe. Am, I am not going to repeat the
experiences that I went through am, when we went money was always a factor but
am? Looking at countries based on emigration right now, I see a lot of people
trying to move to Australia but moving to a country doesn’t necessarily solve
all your financial problems either. I feel that, from reading newspapers, that
people are moving because there’s no work in Ireland, that if they go to
declare bankruptcy or give up their house in Ireland that they will go to
Australia, find the ultimate dream job, work or find a normal job and that this
will solve everything. That there is more to it than just getting a job, you
have to consider if you are on your own, it would probably be easier to make
the choices, but if you have a family you are immigrating with your husband,
your wife, your partner and your children, there’s a lot to consider. There’s
the school system, education system. I would just sort of make an informed
decision based on your age. If you are in your twenties I would say ‘hey if you
are thinking about it, go for it and have fun. Don’t look on it as you are
going to be exiled from Ireland for the rest of your life, you can always go
back home. Things will change, economies do turn around, it may take a few
years. You know I am looking to move back now, it is probably the worst time in
the economy but I have five years to do that and….I just. Have fun as well,
travel I think is the best education and the best university there is in life
and you get to meet so many people. I say go for it.

Patricia Crosse Interview

Loretto: When did leave Ireland?

Tricia: When I came to Australia I didn’t actually come
directly from Ireland. I came from England,
I’d been working in London
for a while. And then I came to Sydney,
I was there for about twelve months. After that I moved out to Mugee, which is
a fairly rural area.” Just over 300 km northwest of Sydney. It’s called the central West Area so
it is sort of rural. It’s got some national parks and agriculture out there.”

Tricia: “Mudgee is quiet well known for its wine.”

Tricia: “I finished studying in Ireland, some of my friends had
already gone on ahead. They’d finished and graduated from college. So there was
work in one of the hotels. So once they had gotten their foot in the door it
was quiet easy to sort of go over and get a job. Si I went over for that
reason. And then yourself (Lonnie) came over after and there were four of us
from college having a rare old time.”

Loretto: Remind me. So you guys were all there?

Tricia: “Miriam was there first, then Anne went over and
then I came I think the first week or so in June. I think, I can’t remember
when you came over. Did you come after working in the states?”

Loretto: I came in early September.  So when did you leave Ireland Patricia? Did
you leave Ireland
the year after we graduated, like I did?

Tricia: “Yeah, 1993, when I left. When I went back it was
pretty much visits. It was never really long term. The longest I was back was
for I think about two months. Before coming to Australia. Yeah but pretty much I
had gone in 1993.”

Loretto: And did you think at that point in June 1993 when
you were leaving for London
that you were leaving for good?

Tricia: “Am? I have to be honest. I knew I was never going
to be full time in Ireland.
I didn’t feel there was much for me at that point because when I did my Leaving
Cert unemployment was 17% and you know, you kind of knew that if you wanted to
work in the bank, you had to know someone, or you had to be a teacher or a
nurse, and I didn’t want to be any of those. So I felt, you know, greener
pastures were elsewhere. And you know, having not been born and bred in Ireland
I didn’t have the same ties that everyone else had. I kind of have more of
those ties now that I am away! But that’s just probably getting older!”
{Laughs}

Loretto: Yeah

Tricia: “Well I didn’t think that I was ever going to be
permanently based in Ireland.
And I didn’t really want to. Ireland
was a bit more old fashioned back then. I was more inclined to be in London and away. You
know?”

Loretto: Yeah. And why did, well you’ve already answered why
you left. Because there was nursing, you felt that nursing and teaching were
the only opportunities for employment and none of them appealed to you?

Tricia: “No. We had career guidance at school. Most of the
girls, you know we went to an all girls school, either wanted to be nurses,
some went on to be nurses in London or else they wanted to be primary school
teachers. There wasn’t even high school teachers, primary school teachers where
you went off to study to a special college to be a primary school teacher. You
had to be able to speak Irish, you had to be able to sing, I couldn’t do any of
those. And look I had no desire to be a teacher any way. I didn’t know
what  I really wanted to be, but these
were the options that were sort being thrown my way. None of them appealed.
{Laughs} So it was kind of head off and see what was out there.”

Loretto: So when you left Irelandin June 1993 there was no
job, there was no car, you didn’t own a house. Were you working in a job?

Tricia: “No. The only work I had ever done in Ireland
was summer work and it was, you know, it wasn’t really that appealing. Plus you
know, I didn’t look, but I didn’t feel like they were calling out ‘come and
work there’s plenty of jobs’ like ten years later at the start of the Celtic
Tiger. There really didn’t seem to be anything available. And most people
seemed to be heading off to the US
or you know, elsewhere. That’s how it seemed.”

Loretto: Yeah. Who took you to the airport Tricia?

Patricia: “I probably took myself! {Laughs} I mean I
probably, well I am about an hour from the Airport. Shannon’s
the closest to where I live. But I didn’t fly to London. I think I probably got the bus to Dublin. Maybe spent the
night in Dublin with my sister who lived in Dublin and then gone out.
I probably got driven. I can’t remember 1005 what happened. But I don’t
remember any big farewell at the airport. I maybe got dropped off by my
sister’s partner or maybe just got the bus out myself to the airport. I was
pretty independent when I was younger, probably said, “Don’t bother. I’ll go
myself.”

Loretto: You actually got to work in England, you got to work in South Africaand then you moved on to Australia. Why
did you chooseAustralia?

Tricia: “Why?”

Loretto: Yeah.

Tricia: “Am? I came over on a working holiday visa, which
let me work for the six moths out of the twelve. And then met some one here. An
Australian person and then decided to come back and live here permanently.”

Loretto: So you actually went to Australia
and then came back to Ireland
did you?

Tricia: “Well I went back toLondon. Yeah.”

Loretto: OK, so basically you had made up your mind that Australia
was going to be the place where you were going to settle because you had met
your husband?

Tricia: “Yeah. Pretty much. Yeah and plus as well because of
the tourist visa he’d come over to join me or I’d come over and live with him
and at that point you know I’d had a good year. I was quite happy to come and
live here cause you know nicer climate, bit different whereas London,
or even Ireland
didn’t quite feel appealing back then. So it actually wasn’t that difficult a
choice to make at that time.”

Loretto: Were conditions better in Australiacompared to Ireland,
or, you have a bigger pool, were they better than South
Africa orEngland?

Tricia: Yeah. Australiais a nice country to come
to because it is different, it is new. Even just the climate, straight up it’s,
you know, it’s really nice to see sunny days most of the year. When you’re
living in Ireland
it’s the opposite. Grey cloudy days for most of the year, even in the summer,
you don’t see that much sun. And London, probably a little bit better weather than
Ireland, doesn’t seem to be as, I know I was based on the west coast so maybe
it was always a bit more grey and a bit more cloudy. And you know, everyone was
pretty friendly and I didn’t have any problem picking up casual work here. So
yeah, and I was kind of younger it didn’t seem too much of an issue or too much
of a strain to actually come. Now I look back and think, hmm? OK? The decision
was made quiet quickly because it is such a long way from family. But I think
at that time I wasn’t really thinking. I was thinking Oh I’ve met some one
going to marry him and call Ausrralia my home. I was one of those kind of
decisions, at that time.”

Loretto: Yeah. Would you ever consider going back toIreland?

Tricia: “I would! But I’d be doing it when my son had left
school and was independent. You know it’ kind of a bit of a change of heart
because I was always I thought No there is nothing there for me. Am? But you
know, there is still that connection that you feel because you know this is
where my family are. And I would have to assume that by the time I do go back
both of my parents will be dead because they are in their seventies now anyway.
But I think there is still that connection to, and you know I did go back on
holidays. It tales a while because after a week I do feel that sort of
yearning, ah, this is kind of ‘home’ in a way. So I can sort of see, and maybe
it’s just nostalgia from being gone so long, but you know. Part of me thinks I
sort of could settle back there and am? And live there quite easily. I all
depends of if I were financially able to. If I wasn’t dependant on government
support or whatever because I think if you don’t have any money living in Ireland
is quite hard because the social welfare system doesn’t seem to be great at the
moment. So I reckon you’d need a certain income to afford to live there
comfortably but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. But probably in the
next ten or fifteen years. {Laughs}I would be well into my fifties I would
imagine at that point.

Loretto: Are you glad you immigrated Tricia?

Tricia: No, I am sad. Because it is a sort of a lonely life
for me and Liam (son) because we don’t have any family here, I mean he’s saying
my cousins, but they’re not my
cousins. They’re his cousins and there’s not a lot, there’s only a few cousins.
So you know I am regretful, I would like to sort of maybe you know, I don’t
know maybe then again looking back to when I was 18 I really always thought I
would go because it felt like there really wasn’t anything in Ireland as an 18
year old. It was either go then to England or somewhere or else go to
college, study and then leave. I never really felt like I was ever going to
stay in Ireland
at that point. I just am a little bit regretful.

Loretto: What sort of advice would you give the immigrants
today? There’s allegedly a thousand emigrants per week, at the high points of
immigration, leavingIreland.

Tricia: Mm? My advice? I guess, they’re young, embrace it.
They’re going somewhere, it’s an adventure, you know? I would imagine that a
lot of them would return back when they are older. And if they do marry people
from the country that they are coming to, that’s always a good a reason to stay
in your new country. You’ve met someone, you marry and you start off a new
family. But, I think, you know, the Irish are good travelers, they go and they
do lot’s of good things in other countries, and they have good influence,
positive influence on other countries and I think, I actually do think it’s
good for people to leave their home country for a short period of time. I mean
certainly no one wants to think that they are going forever, but I do think if
you have to go due to circumstances beyond your control, you can look on it as
an adventure. And try to make the most of it, make some money and look on it as
an adventure and perhaps know that one day you can, you can always go back.”

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.

Pauline (Singleton) Lynch Interview

Loretto: So we graduated in 1991, where did you go onto from
UCG?

Pauline: I stayed in UCG, I did a further degree. I did the
LLB and then I went from there, eventually, to the apprenticeship to get
qualified as a solicitor.

Loretto: OK and how long did that whole process take?

Pauline: Believe it or not it took the best part of, well
let me see. That was 1991 and I qualified in 1999, so it took two more years
for my degree; my LLB, so that was up to ’93. And then I went to America for a
year, and then I came back. And then I think it took me a year or so, maybe a
little bit more before I got the apprenticeship, before I could secure an
apprenticeship because it was really hard at the time. And then I qualified in
January 1999.

Loretto: So you were qualified in 1999. Why was it difficult
to get an apprenticeship at the time Pauline?

Pauline:  Purely
because of the economics. Ah, there was no work really in Ireland at the
time. And am, thee boom hadn’t kicked in until closer to 1999, 2000. And during
the ‘90’s it was hard enough to get work, especially for, especially
apprnticeships. They were really difficult to get.

Loretto: Right. So even though we keep hearing that the boom
started in 1994 or 1995 you were not feeling the effects of it in your
profession until 2000

Pauline: Oh no! And Lon (Loretto), I was working in a
solicitor’s office in 1994 and 1995 and there was no boom in ’94 and ’95. There
was no property boom definitely. It was later; it wasn’t until around ’99, ’98,
’99 that house prices started to go up.

Loretto: What were you doing in the solicitor’s office? Was
that inGalway Pauline?

Pauline: Yes. During my apprenticeship?

Loretto: Yeah. That you had a feel for what was happening
among houses and that?

Pauline: Well, I started off first doing secretarial type
work, but then I was doing the basic work of conveying a house, before I
qualified I could do that, but under the tutelage of my master. So while I was
doing the work, it was my bosses name that was on the paper work.  If you understand?

Loretto: Right. Now you mentioned that when you finished
your LLB Pauline that you went to America for one year, we’re talking
’93 and ’94, when supposedly the boom was happening, but we couldn’t see it.  Was there unemployment still? Why did you go
to America
that year?

Pauline: Well purely because I wanted to Loretto. I wanted
to spend a year in America
with Margaret (sister) I had a green card at the time. And purely to save some
money before I went back to do the apprenticeship, because I needed some money,
because I knew I would be earning so little as an apprentice.

Loretto: So you came back to Ireland, you got your
apprenticeship and you were fully qualified by 1999. From 1999 onwards can you
tell what differences you saw in Ireland that contributed to the
so-called boom? I mean did you see am, more houses going up.

Pauline: The boom was purely property.

Loretto: It was purely property?

Pauline: Yeah.

Loretto: Did it effect your profession at all?

Pauline: Of course it did. Because there was plenty of work
for solicitor’s at that time because of the property boom.

Loretto: Where are you living now Pauline?

Pauline:Tenerife.

Loretto: How long have you been there?

Pauline: Two years.

Loretto: What made you leave Irelandtwo years ago? Did you see
something that was …?

Pauline: Yes, I saw the end of the boom.

Loretto: How did that manifest itself?

Pauline: We had a B&B and because of the property boom
and the government had given tax incentives to hotels, for new hotels to be
built. So there was a glut of new hotels all around the country. That pretty
much killed off the B&B industry. But we had managed to sell our house, and
I had, when D (son) was two years of age, which was in 2005, the end of 2005; I
took a career break because I wanted to be at home with D (son) while he was
small and we still had the B&B. So two years later we sold the B&B, but
by then it was difficult to get back into legal work, because the end was near,
the end of the boom. We were looking at buying a different business, but it
didn’t work out because banks were no longer lending money. So because we
didn’t see ourselves having an awful lot of options here at the time we decided
to go toTenerife.

Loretto: So because you were in the service industry you saw
the end before anybody else did?

Pauline: Yeah, I did. Exactly Lon (Loretto) Plus, we were
trying to sell our house and it was in a very prestigious location and we were
told that it would sell no problem etc and we were very, very lucky to sell it
after having two years on the market.

Loretto: Why Tenerife
Pauline?

Pauline: We had been there ten years previous and J
(husband) wanted us to move there then and I wouldn’t because I had just
qualified at the time and I thought I haven’t put in all that effort to move to
Tenerife, because I didn’t like it. Then we
had friends who lived there and they were telling us what a great place it was
to live etc. And then we thought ok, he wanted to move. And am, we went to have
another look at it and we said yeah. So we’ve made the move.

Loretto: The interesting part of this now Pauline is you’re
probably one of the first of thee third group of immigrants to leave. That’s
what’s interesting, it was such a short boom.

And really, let’s face it; you were getting ready to leave
with us in 1991.

Pauline: Yeah, of course.

Loretto: And then the boom picked up. We didn’t even see the
boom in ’94 or ’95. So it was even less than a ten year boom.

Pauline: Yeah. And it was all property driven Loretto,
because the government were making so much money on stamp duty from property
transactions that they did nothing to cool the situation……it was a cash cow. If
they hadn’t been so greedy at the tim, maybe the boom could have been sustained.
They sacrificed natural industry in order to grant planning permission for
properties that should have never been built.

Loretto: When you emigrated in 2009 do you think it was more
difficult for you to emigrate then?

Pauline: Oh yeah!

Loretto: And why?

Pauline: Because I moved to a country where they speak
another language, right? But that was by choice. They speak English and
Spanish. But I had moved with my children and it is so difficult when you don’t
know the systems that are in place in order to provide for children really. You
know? You are liable to make the wrong choices. When you are moving on your
own, you only have yourself to worry about. So it was even more difficult from
that point of view.

Loretto: Was it difficult to pack up and leave Irelandwith
your whole family? I mean what was the emotions like, your Mom….?

Pauline: I was a basket case. (Laughs) And I still am,
because I am not happy that we’ve moved but I don’t see any future for us to
come back right now. There are solicitors you know working in McDonalds and
other institutions of like ilk. So I don’t see any future for J (husband) and
myself back inIreland.

Loretto: Do you think Pauline that you will ever move back
toIreland?

Pauline: Oh I hope to. We tried to move back this summer but
it didn’t work out. The property we were interested in just didn’t come our
way. But I am hoping that next year maybe we will.

Loretto: Were conditions better in Tenerife than Irelandtwo
years ago when you moved?

Pauline: Yes they were and to some extent they still are;
because people in Ireland
are very preoccupied with the downturn. People in Tenerife,
it’s a tourist destination, people are more upbeat. So that does filter through
into lots of things, even though it’s tough in Tenerife
at the minute. People in the service industry don’t make a lot of money in
Tenerife, so that all filters through into the, other businesses, but you know
tourist numbers are still up in Tenerife and from that point of view I think
Tenerife has a future, but Ireland doesn’t at the minute.