Young people in North West Donegal were joined by families of those who have emigrated as they gathered along the West side of Muckish mountain on Sunday morning at a well-known historical landmark, passed by those emigrating from the region in years gone by.
‘Droichead na nDeor’, or as it is known in English, ‘The Bridge of Sorrows’ was used as a parting spot for local emigrants who were bound for the Derry port in search of a better life. Members of Sinn Féin Republican Youth gathered at the spot as a mark of remembrance and respect, while highlighting the high level of emigration among young people in the county that still exists today.
“The reality is, while Donegal is crippled with a 50% youth unemployment rate, over ten young people are leaving this country every hour” event organiser and local Sinn Féin activist, Simon Gillespie, told the crowd that had gathered.
Gillespie explained that the aim of the event was “twofold”.
“Young people are gathered here today in solidarity with our peers who have been forced to emigrate as a direct result of this Government’s crushing austerity policies and their utter lack of compassion. At the same time, we also remember those who emigrated from this spot in the past, especially those who were never fortunate enough to return.”
“Thousands who emigrated in the past to America or Australia would have crossed this bridge, and many of those left behind on one occasion, were bid farewell at the same place a short time later.”
Gillespie continued, “We are sending a strong message to the Fine Gael and Labour Government, as well as to those who went before them, that the young people of Ireland are determined that we are not going to be educated for export.”
“Minister Perry and his cabinet colleagues may try to fool themselves by implying that the 87,000 young people leaving this state every year are going to ‘enjoy themselves’, well, I put this to the Minister; while Fine Gael and Labour may be engaged in empty rhetoric in advocating that Ireland is the ‘best small country in which to raise a family’, I invite any Government representative to come and visit rural Donegal and sit down with any family who have watched their son or daughter emigrate, and tell them that this is ‘the best small country’.
“Come and visit the mother who Skyped her children in Australia on Christmas Day, or the Grandfather who has to watch his Grandchildren grow up through Facebook photographs. Come and visit the younger siblings of those who have been forced to leave, and watch, as they too trudge through the education system, all the time knowing the inevitable that lies ahead. Towns have been left lifeless, communities destroyed and families ripped apart.”
Gillespie concluded by asking the Government to introduce a job stimulus package, aimed at youth employment, as a means of getting young people back to work, and back home to live.
“Young people are willing and ready to work, but this Government seem to prefer to see them emigrate as a means of claiming that the live register figures and dole queues have decreased. They have not decreased. The people have emigrated.”
“Finally, we have a message for those who have emigrated. Our friends, our schoolmates and our siblings. We have not forgotten you. Sinn Féin will continue to fight to secure voting rights for all Irish citizens, home and abroad. We will continue to fight on your behalf to put an end to austerity, and most of all, we will continue to campaign for an adequate job creation stimulus package to get you back home.”
“The young people of Ireland are this country’s best asset. We must put a stop to them becoming our best export too.”