A few days ago I attended a meeting about how to resuscitate Ireland’s economy (not quite in those words). The people in the room were influential ex-pats and second generation Irish Americans, and one thing about them was striking: most of them were over sixty, and most of them were male.
I was present as a member of the media, and I was lucky to be able to attend (we were only allowed stay for the first half hour); but I couldn’t help thinking, who were these men? CEOs and VIPs, admittedly, but did they know what twitter was? Not that knowledge of tweeting is needed if you’re to save a country. What I mean is, in what way were they the ones best equipped to reboot the so-called Smart Economy?
Senior corporate males do have a place in the conversation about Ireland’s economy — they certainly know well how to succeed within their own company structures — but surely at this stage our nation’s representation should be more diverse. I couldn’t imagine, somehow, my bright, clever friends in London, New York or Dublin being invited to this sort of event. And they weren’t.
As we walked away from the gathering, I discussed this fact with a colleague, who lives in New York and who happens to be gay. We spoke about how alienated we had felt in Ireland, growing up. It was only when I left that I really felt free.
At the time, I thought it was just me — that I was too paranoid to cope with the smallness of Dublin life (I am quite paranoid), and that it was simply my fault I couldn’t fit in — but when I’m a fly on the wall at meetings like that one, the issue seems broader. Where are the entrepreneurs, the young bright sparks, the ‘well-educated young people‘ that the government so often boasts of? Wherever they are, they’re not being consulted about what’s happening. Not only that, but those who emigrate, as so many are expected to do in coming years, will have no say in the country’s future. As the Citizen’s Information website observes:
If you are an Irish citizen living abroad you cannot be entered on the Register of electors. This means that you cannot vote in an election or referendum here in Ireland. (The only exception to this is in the case of Irish officials on duty abroad (and their spouses) who may register on the postal voters list).
During the next week, I hope to have some guests-posts by Irish people who don’t fall into VIP businessman category, but who are, nevertheless, well-educated and well-informed. They may not agree with me — they may say things are great in Ireland — but I hope they’ll give their take on what life there is like.