Laura McKenna of Young Workers Network, Moira Murphy of We’re Not Leaving & Shane Fitzgerald WNLPhoto by Paul Reynolds//Rabble – By Owen Griffin On Saturday 9 November at the Young People’s Assembly in Liberty Hall, Dublin the largest and broadest …

Walton Pantland
WNLPic

Laura McKenna of Young Workers Network, Moira Murphy of We’re Not Leaving & Shane Fitzgerald WNL
Photo by Paul Reynolds//Rabble

– By Owen Griffin

On Saturday 9 November at the Young People’s Assembly in Liberty Hall, Dublin the largest and broadest gathering of young people in Ireland since the economic crisis began in 2008 took place. For the first time the effort was made to bring together students, the young unemployed, precarious workers and their representative organisations. The almost two hundred attendees worked on a common charter and strategies to get organised and fight back against the persistent attacks on the living conditions of people in Irish society. The event was organised by the newly formed We’re Not Leaving campaign and hosted by the Young Worker’s Network.

Five years on from the bank guarantee and the imposition of austerity we now live in a society that locks young people out from basic social protections and the decision-making processes that impact on their lives and futures. The result is common negative experiences, foisted on us but not caused by us. The We’re Not Leaving campaign refuses to accept this ‘new normal’ or be their ‘safety valve’. The We’re Not Leaving project has organised regional meetings throughout the island of Ireland and aims to facilitate the growth of a broad based grassroots campaign that will expose a generation to the benefits of organising and sharing solidarity with other groups that have been disproportionately affected by the imposition of austerity budgets.

On the day that Ireland announced its intention to exit the EU/IMF bailout programme in December 2013 it is pertinent to consider the impact that 5 years of concerted attacks on the social fabric have had. We now see a country that is growing ever more unequal, and has seen its youth population decimated by the cyclical imposition of forced emigration. According to Ireland’s Central Statistics Office 105 000 young people have emigrated in the past 3 years. This represents the hollowing out of an entire generation that will have massive impacts economically and socially. We are facing into possible decades of economic stagnation with the focus on export lead recovery not encouraging enough jobs in the real economy.

We regularly hear Government Ministers and media commentators talking about our falling unemployment rate, about how our labour market is getting more competitive but what must be remembered: there has been a fall of over 220,000 among young people. If that population had remained static since 2008 and 75 percent of this group were jobseekers, then the current unemployment rate would be closer to 20 per cent. Yes, unemployment is falling. Because of a massive exodus of young people at a social and economic cost that has still to be calculated or experienced. What we are seeing now is the replaying of the phenomenon of forced emigration, one that has plagued the Irish state since its inception in the early 1920s. The 50s, the 80s and now have seen the Irish population robbed of its youth, this has had wide ranging impacts on the political and social climate with the most radical and disenfranchised suffering at the hands of an economic system designed to neuter and export them.

The vast majority of people played no part in creating this crisis of the wealthy that besets Ireland, and we will not tolerate these attacks on our present and futures to pay for it. Instead the time has come to set about building and setting out alternatives to the ideologies that enrich the few, while impoverishing the many. We do not purport to have all the answers to the ongoing crisis in Ireland however we will declare, we’re students, precarious workers, the young unemployed and combinations of all three.

We’re angry and we’re not leaving.


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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