Minister rejects emigration claims
Finance minister Michael Noonan has rejected claims that thousands of young people are forced to flee Ireland because of unemployment, saying emigration is often a lifestyle choice.
He also argued that employment remained high, despite 434,000 people currently on the Live Register. "Employment has stayed quite high. We still have 1.8 million people working in Ireland," said Mr Noonan.
"I remember in the 1980s when times were quite bad. Employment dropped to about 940,000 - almost half. So the situation is quite different."
Around 40,000 Irish citizens are expected to emigrate to the likes of Australia and Canada this year alone.
But Mr Noonan said this was not purely down to the country's economy and unemployment levels. "There are always young people coming and going from Ireland," he went on.
"Some of them are emigrants in the traditional sense, but simply there are people who want to get off the island.
"For a lot of people going, it's not being driven by unemployment at all. It's being driven by wanting to see another part of the world."
The minister revealed that three of his five children live and work abroad - none of whom could be described as emigrants.
"It was for a choice of lifestyle and what they wanted to do with their lives, and there are a lot of families like that," he added.
However, when Fine Gael was in opposition, then finance spokesman Mr Noonan challenged the Government to develop a job creation strategy to avoid mass emigration. "Unless effective labour market policies are put in place, the next few years will see an appalling combination of high emigration, and high levels of long-term unemployment," he said