Emigration ‘forcing families to have relationships through Skype’

Derry artist, �amonn O'Doherty's 'The Emigrants' sculpture along the quay.
Derry artist, �amonn O'Doherty's 'The Emigrants' sculpture along the quay.
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Widespread emigration across Derry and the north west is forcing some families “to have relationships through Skype,” those behind a major new study have said.

Pilot research conducted by youth and community workers, Kat Healy and Darren O’Reilly, has found that over 95 percent of young people asked did not see themselves staying in Derry long-term.

Darren O’Reilly, who is also an Independent Derry & Strabane Councillor, said the research pointed to young people seeing more attractive work and study opportunities elsewhere.

He warned: “We are basically the first line of production. We are creating these young people for emigration to elsewhere in the world, where they are becoming active citizens.

He said emigration was impacting not just on Derry’s economy and society, but on a more personal level for families right across the city.

“There are people within this community who have up to three or four siblings or sons and daughters away in a foreign country at one time,” he said. “Families are forced to have relationships through Skype and What’s App.

“Parents are actually surrendering that, saying what is the point of my son staying here, I’d rather have him in Australia doing well for himself or in England working rather than lying here and not fulfilling his potential.”

Speaking about the survey results, Kat said: “Less than five percent want to stay here and that is from right across the age profile, the different ethnic, political, geographic and class backgrounds- there’s no one part of the population that is more likely to stay.

“The other thing is, it’s not just an indefinite plan most of them have. Most of them have actually looked at what they want to do when they leave. It’s thought through.”

She added: “I think the biggest factor is economic. We asked the question of whether this was legacy issue, sectarian issue and substantially it is not. It is lack of opportunity and resources here and seeing economic upturn outside of the north-west.”

Kat and Darren said that in terms of the research conducted to date, young people seem to feel disconnected from the wider decision making processes.

Darren said: “The young people are very articulate, very passionate and very informed about what they want to do, it’s just about bringing the right people with the right will together to make proper social and economic change.

“And without engaging positively with the young people, we are just going to keep leaking and the young people are just going to keep leaving.”