The Christmas of the empty chairs...

We had a young man working here with us for a while this year who had his Christmas dinner back in October. He went home to his family one weekend to discover that they had decked out the kitchen in festive fare, donned the silly hats, bought the crackers and crackling away in the oven was a turkey the size of an eagle.

These people from a rural background, not known for spontaneity of any emotional nature gathered around and celebrated Christmas dinner two months early as if it was the most normal thing in the world. They even had his Christmas present bought because they knew that like tens of thousands of others, come the real Christmas Day, his chair would be empty and he would be working away on the other side of the world. A few years back, they could never have guessed that the son they reared through school and right through to the attainment of post-graduate qualification would be forced to go abroad to see work and a better life.

Many households will have such empty chairs this year — and the young men and women who are occupying chairs now are all looking at the option of leaving Ireland next year, if their chances of employment and fulfilment are not enhanced.

In many other families too, there are empty chairs for more tragic reasons. As always many young people this year have lost their lives on our roads and an even greater number have taken their own lives — their souls crushed by the seemingly overwhelming downer that this country is on. An entire generation is paying the price for the excesses of many. And that is why there is tremendous responsibility on the Government to get it right, to do their best to get the best deal for Ireland, to take the shortest path to recovery and to ensure that politicking does not get in the way.

They owe this to the generation that is forced to emigrate, but they owe it perhaps more to the generations of us who are now past the age for emigration and who have to endure this country for better or for worse until the good times come again.

That young man had four job offers the first weekend he was there, so for the moment he is happy out. He is of a kind that will no doubt flourish and come back and build a new Ireland at some stage. For the rest of us, we face into the challenge of turning this country around — give us two years and we’ll all do that. Next year is a great one for Galway — the finale of the Volvo gives us all a hook on which to hang our hats and if Galway plays its cards right, it will emerge as a major player in the 2013 project The Gathering which we hope will see lots of the disapora sample Irish life. So bring it on...

Finally, on behalf of the management and staff of the Galway Advertiser and its sister newspapers around the country, we wish you a very happy and fulfilling Christmas. We thank you for your loyalty and for allowing us the opportunity to inform, entertain, and, no doubt, occasionally infuriate you over the past year. We thank you too for your comments, both for and against our commitment to allow as many diverse voices as possible to be heard through our pages and on our increasingly popular Facbook and Twitter facilities. This spring we enter our 43rd year in the business of connecting readers, stories, businesses. We love what we do and we look forward to next year and remaining Galway’s favourite and most widely read newspaper

Thar cheann an Galway Advertiser gach dea ghuí i gcomhair na Nollag agus na hathbhliana.

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