The old country is bleeding. Over one thousand young people are leaving
every week. Someone remarked recently, "It's just one going-away party after
Where are they heading, this best educated Irish generation? Not here - many
to EU countries, some to the UK, but mostly to the new land of opportunity,
Once we would have heard their accents ricocheting around Bainbridge,
Woodside and all the various South sides around the country but that's a
thing of the past.
What went wrong? Well, the long and the short of it - we don't want them in
And so on this St. Patrick's Day eve it's time to take stock before we dive
into our annual orgy of self-congratulation - some deserved, some not so.
The main reason these young Irish are not coming to the US is that it is
almost impossible to do so legally - Irish need not apply. And it is hardly
worth their time coming illegally, the few avenues that used to be open
towards gaining a green card and eventual citizenship have been closed off.
What's the point in spending a life on the shadowy margins when somewhere
else better appreciates the talent on offer?
Irish-America could do with some new blood. I recently stood outside the
shell of the old Bunratty Pub on Kingsbridge Avenue and remembered nights
when men wild with drink blasted jigs and reels the like of which I'd never
heard in Ireland. There wasn't an Irish face to be seen - nor any outside
the Archway where only a couple of decades ago hundreds lined up to dance.
It's the same story all over this city and the country - old neighborhoods
are dying for lack of immigrant youth. Irish need not apply and most of us
take it lying down.
A new Taoiseach will go hat in hand to present shamrock at the White House
on St. Patrick's Day but DC wants nothing to do with a fair immigration law.
The new Know-Nothings rule the roost - Irish need not apply.
But we must face the fact that many of these young emigrants no longer see
the US as the land of opportunity. Now I still stand by the claim that this
is the best country in the world. But a country is only as great as the
aspirations of its people.
It is indeed time to look in the mirror and examine what these emigrants see
- a country at permanent war hemorrhaging its youth and wealth in endless
conflicts half way around the world. A society that, instead of
strengthening its social safety net, is talking of dismantling it, thus
inevitably impoverishing large sections of an aging working and
Still, these trends can be reversed - but only if we shake ourselves free
from a national lethargy. It's easy to be cynical, after all 99% of us
didn't cause the recent financial meltdown. But the fact is we didn't keep
an eye on those who were supposed to be keeping an eye on the store for us.
Most of us didn't want to invade Iraq and, according to polls, would rather
be the hell out of Afghanistan. Yet, we allow our leaders to prosecute
policies that are driven by outdated 9/11 related strategies.
These are hardly just Irish-American issues but, from both left and right,
we've always been known for our advocacy and our desire for justice, whether
it be Bobby Kennedy or Ronald Reagan, William F. Buckley or Pete Hamill.
Right now we badly need a comprehensive reform of emigration law no matter
how difficult it may be to pass through an increasingly Know-Nothing
We have inherited a country and a proud Irish-American mantle. We have need
of new blood, while at the same time there are those undocumented amongst us
who would only love to set foot on Irish soil again to visit aging parents.
It's time our politicians heard that message. Many of them, Democrat and
Republican, take our votes for granted. That has to end.
Then perhaps someday we'll hear those mad flutes and fiddles blasting jigs
and reels on Kingsbridge Avenue once again.