Record emigration amid government ‘dysfunction’
Almost 40,000 are leaving Ireland each year as a result of the continuing decline in the 26 County economy, bringing Irish emigration to its highest level since the famine.
New figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show fewer people are working, but also reveal that the labour force -- the total number of people available to work -- is down almost 30,000 in the past year.
Despite some indications of increased economic activity, the number of people at work in the April-June period fell by nearly 14,000, the biggest three-month fall in a year.
The CSO has always refused to release direct estimates on Irish emigration, one of the most politically sensitive statistics. But the numbers released appear to confirm that thousands are leaving the country every month, with one economist placing the number “running close to 40,000 per annum” -- the highest in over a century.
Young people are finding it twice as hard as older ones to get jobs, with nearly a third of those aged 20 to 24 out of work. Many of them are leaving to seek out work in Australia and Canada, as well as in the traditional locations of Britain and the US.
In total, the number of people working in the 26 Counties fell by 33,400 in 12 months, down to 1.78 million in June this year.
An extra 4,000 people are officially described as unemployed, nudging the unemployment rate up slightly to 14.8pc or 308,500 people. Employment fell in most sectors of the economy with administration, finance and construction the hardest hit.
The figures were released as the 26-County government returned from their annual summer break to a series of embarrassing scandals and revelations.
It emerged this week that Minister for Health James Reilly had summarily added two locations to a priority list for the development of healthcare facilities -- both locations are situated in his own north Dublin constituency, where he owns significant healthcare investments. Details of the changes came from none other than Reilly’s deputy, Labour’s Minister of State Roisin Shortall.
One of the first parliamentary votes in the new term saw Minister Reilly survive a motion of no confidence over his handling of recent cutbacks in health services. And although the two are now openly in political conflict, Shortall also voted confidence in Reilly. The Minister responded by issuing a new set of figures that show that the management crisis in the Health Service Executive (HSE) has been escalating, with longer waiting lists and cost overruns.
Brendan Howlin, the Labour Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, revealed this week that he had abandoned a long-promised plan to reform the government’s expensive system of bonuses, perks and allowances. At the same time, HSE consultants secured a new deal providing for annual salary rates of more than a quarter of a million euro per year.
Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Caoimhghin O Caolain said there was “deep dysfunction” in Ireland’s public health services. He again called for Reilly’s immediate resignation and an end to the creeping privatisation of healthcare.
“We have a delusional senior Minister who maintains, against all evidence to the contrary, claims that the health services are now delivering more with less,” he said.
“We have a Minister of State who has challenged her senior colleague in the most public way yet who, with other Labour Party deputies, voted confidence in him in the Dail this week. I believe many Labour TDs who voted with the Government did so knowing full well that the Minister does not deserve their confidence.
“This is not a dispute over the location of primary care centres. That need is felt in communities across the State and delivery should come first where need is greatest. This is about the effective governance of our health services and the policy approach.
“The removal of James Reilly as Minister is not enough without a change of policy.”