Caring about Ireland at Christmas

The people of Ireland are struggling. Incomes are lower, taxes and fees are higher, unemployment is 14.8 percent, and tens of thousands of young people are once again leaving. After enjoying a booming economy for a brief time a few years ago, Ireland is now severely burdened with enormous debt caused by risk-taking speculators and greedy bankers.

To prevent a total collapse of the Irish economy, in November 2010, the government acted with the advice and backing of the world’s financial leadership and guaranteed all Irish bank debt. It is this debt that hangs over Ireland today.

Should we care? Do Irish Americans have a reason to help? Do we care about our heritage enough?

I respectfully suggest that yes we should care and help where we can.

With great courage and hope, our forebears left Ireland years ago to come to America to build new lives for themselves and their families. Many left large pieces of their hearts and souls back in their villages. Even today you rarely meet a recent immigrant – citizen or not – who doesn’t hold dear the memories of his or her childhood with all the wonderful Irish traditions, especially at Christmas time.

That spirit remains with us today. With determination and resolve, Ireland is doing its best on its own to cope with an extremely difficult economic situation, in the process earning much praise and admiration from European political and financial leaders for facing its problems and executing an unfortunate but necessary austerity program. The speculators are losing their fortunes, including their homes, and some have gone to jail.

It should be remembered that the government under Taoiseach Enda Kenny has had just over 18 months to remedy the situation. The previous taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and his Fianna Fail government resigned in March of 2011 three years after assuming the government reins.

To be fair to Cowen, there were early signs pointing to a recession during 2006 that worsened through 2007 until the government formally declared a recession in September 2008 at which time Cowen had been taoiseach for only five months.

Putting aside for a moment the tragic accounting of Ireland’s recent troubles, what can we do to help?

There are so many places to start, and a good one would be: Plan a trip to Ireland next year. Tourism brings cash and productive wages not only to Dublin and Belfast but also to the more remote areas that need it most. The Irish tourist board in New York is sponsoring a year-long promotion they call “The Gathering.” Many have signed up already. This would be an excellent way to assist Ireland and enjoy yourself at the same time.

Another means of support would be to help the local Irish institutions here in Boston area that honor our heritage all year long. The Irish Cultural Centre in Canton is a perfect example. Most of us attend their Irish Festival, but there are events there each month and the dues to belong are nominal.

Other organizations – The Eire Society, the Charitable Irish, The American Ireland Fund, The Irish American Partnership, The Irish International Immigrant Center, The Irish Pastoral Centre – all deserve support. This newspaper, the Boston Irish Reporter, which honors Ireland with each issue, should be considered.

Then there is the new Irish Network Boston started a few years ago that has events nearly every month. If you would like to meet young Irish Americans and a few old codgers who try to go to everything, join Irish Network Boston.

As Christmas draws closer and you make out your list for gifts and charitable donations, think about adding Ireland to the roster.