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Global Dublin Killing Rural Ireland

Humans wander. But destinations are few and far between.
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Patrick Street in Cork, Ireland c.1890–1900. (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Patrick Street in Cork, Ireland c.1890–1900. (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

While Dublin blushes in globalization's embrace, rural Ireland resigns itself to growing old alone. The exodus from the hinterlands has two prongs. Some natives follow the well-worn path to Australia or the States. Others, like in Pakistan or Brazil, stay in-country and head to bright lights, big city. That's not to say folks aren't exiting Cork or Galway. They are. But urban Ireland still draws. Rural does not:

New data show Ireland pulled out of recession in the second quarter, unemployment is falling and property prices are rising again after halving in value over five years. But the economy is fragile and there is evidence of a two-speed recovery with cities like Dublin, Cork and Galway growing while regional towns and rural areas stagnate.

A major financial crisis, a great recession, is a rupture. The global earthquake, at least for the connected world, reshapes the economic landscape. Old contracts are now null and void:

Emigration has been a feature of Irish life for generations but the construction boom during the Celtic Tiger boom provided well-paid jobs, enabling young people to live in rural areas where they grew up. The property bust changed that. Construction jobs dried up, the government imposed recruitment embargoes on public service jobs and the service sector shrank.

Ditching your hometown or fleeing costly real estate doesn't define brain drain. A place becomes cursed, radioactive. No one will move there. With no inflow, a population aging in place, a town will die. There is always a rhyme and reason to going. Humans wander. But destinations are few and far between.

Even during the darkest of days, people still moved to Rust Belt Detroit and Pittsburgh. And during the brightest days of the Sun Belt rush, thousands fled Atlanta and Charlotte. In a good year, New York City might lose only 100,000 people to domestic migration. Churn makes the world go round. Rural Ireland is an eddy.