Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Ongoing brain drain a blight on our society

Editor's Viewpoint

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has written a poignant reflection, which we publish today, about the sadness of leaving his brother and sister to the airport after the festive break.

Like many thousands of others, they are working outside Northern Ireland, where the economy is unable to provide jobs for them.

Mr Eastwood's experience is shared by so many families, who know the sadness of driving their young people to the airports and ferry terminals after the holidays.

This is part of the brain drain that has been going on for decades.

Northern Ireland is good at educating our young people to the highest level, but not so good at keeping them, as we lose some of our brightest and best.

If this trend continues, it will prove to be very worrying for the province's economic future.

Mr Eastwood blames the inequalities between the economy in the Republic, which is recovering well from the 2007 crash, and the sluggish economy in Northern Ireland.

He highlights, rightly, the need for our politicians to get back to Stormont, and underlines that we "can't go on being the only political environment in the Western world where the economy isn't the primary issue".

He also points out clearly that the greatest inequality is a system that robs people of the chance of having a job and staying in their own community to raise a family.

In Northern Ireland we pride ourselves in being family-orientated and in having close-knit ties, with people always being there for one another.

For many, the reality is rather different, with families being spread worldwide. Technology helps them to keep in touch, but talking through Skype and communicating through social media is not the same as meeting people regularly, face to face.

It is an historical fact that sustained emigration from this part of the world was instrumental in helping other countries to build up their own economies.

How good it would be to see Northern Ireland starting to move out of the economic doldrums and becoming a place where it could hold its own in providing jobs for its people.

So long as our deadlocked politicians remain aloof from Stormont, there is even less chance of turning the economy round.

All of us, including our young people, deserve better.

Belfast Telegraph

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