"I am a double dealer, with a double-dealing soul"
The American Wake - " a wake for the living... it started in Ireland, where adult children were forced by economic and political circumstances to leave their parents and relatives."
It's a familiar story, that of the Irish émigré, and one that has been repeated throughout the ages, transmuting with each generation as economic, social, and political problems have moved Irish people to seek more optimistic shores, the 'streets paved with gold' of folklore. This pattern has created an instantly recognisable stock character; the 'Irish expat' who builds a life in their adopted country, but maintains a complex relationship with their homeland: a kind of confused sentimentality within which the concept of Ireland is idealised, and all its literary, artistic, bucolic, and indeed, alcoholic, attributes are feted, whilst the reality of living there is simultaneously dismissed.
This notion of only being able to appreciate Ireland from a distance is visible in the life and work of literary greats such as James Joyce, who emigrated permanently in his 20s, but remained preoccupied with Dublin, returning there in his fiction time and again, the creatively fertile birthplace that succeeded in inspiring him, but did not manage to retain him. His friend and contemporary Samuel Beckett also left Dublin permanently as a young man, although his rejection of Ireland was more complete.
Although he may have been geographically and ideologically apart, linguistically his attempts to escape the Irish literacy legacy can be seen as binding him to them further. These are some of Ireland's most famous emigrants. But what of the current and unprecedented influx, the greatest since the Famine, over 150 years ago?
The last 18 months have seen an extraordinary exodus of under 30s from Ireland in search of work, with approximately 100 people emigrating every day amidst an economic climate in Eire that is headline-grabbing in its misery. This decline has been well-documented and commented on, the story of Ireland's fall from grace is held up as an example of dangerous economic pride before a fall.
It is little wonder the young are fleeing Dublin - with unemployment at 14% the figures hurt, and the reality stings too, as a trip to Dublin will testify, its prices out of control and a sense of gloominess prevailing. The Celtic Tiger that roared so ferociously in the 90s has been exposed as something of a shadow puppet. Indeed commentators seem at a loss to understand how Ireland ever became so rich in boom time to begin with. Reasons for its success are put forward that include the elimination of trade barriers, the lowering of the corporate tax rate, even the legalisation of birth control and its impact on the age of the workforce. Whatever the reason for its brief success, the bubble has now imploded and in these uncertain times it is difficult to predict what the future has in store for Ireland.
Aside from the difficult climb out of the financial doldrums, it remains to be seen what the social and cultural ramifications, the impact on national identity, and the effect the mass emigration will have on future generations. Joining the melting pot of London are young adults who realise that London can offer something that Dublin currently cannot.
Of course the migration of the Irish to England in search of work is not a new phenomenon, but it is the current and particular exodus which moves the trend forward, as some of Ireland's brightest young graduates arrive in England and seem to integrate seamlessly into the fabric of society.
Many of the same children of 80s and 90s Northern Ireland who were careful to avoid any form of expression of pro-British sentiment, even through an accessory or an item of clothing, are now settled in England and happily raising a glass on occasions such as the royal wedding and the upcoming Diamond Jubilee. They may love Ireland, but their relationship with England is a true marriage of convenience. Accompanying the personal dimension is a drastic thaw in relations between Ireland and England, with historic events such as 2011's state visit by the Queen paving the way for a new era in Anglo-Irish diplomacy.
So, Dublin and by extension, Ireland, is in the throes of a mass emigration, a considerable loss for the country. Meanwhile London, and England, are gaining more high-achieving graduates, boosting the calibre of the workforce. But what does this mean in human terms? For those that have left Ireland forever, and for those that have stayed behind?
The emigrants continue their lives, unhappy or happy as they may be, but more often than not eulogising the old country when the opportunity arises, clinging on to the accent, the colloquialisms, the songs, or whatever it is that gives them their otherness, and helps them retain it. Those in their 20s and 30s are happy to enjoy the fruits of the English markets, but for most a time will come when they will face the dilemma of whether to live permanently in England, or return to Ireland, the love of the family, the country and its irresistible and romantic mythology pulling them back- an undercurrent of longing that many find impossible to shake off.