Whilst looking out of the window of the aeroplane last night as we started the descent to Cardiff, I felt conflicted. I was delighted to be home in Wales and struck by the beauty of the country whilst viewing it from the air, and yet I felt desperately sad that I'd had to leave Ireland after a fantastic few days there. Not for the first time in my life, I found myself thinking - if only I could be like Sabrina the teenage witch so that I could split myself into two versions of Heledd Fychan. I think that's the only possible solution to my dilemma. Both Heledd's would live extremely happy lives. The one Heledd would live my life here in Wales as it is now and the other would be a writer and a historian living in Ireland, sharing her time equally between Dublin and Galway. Unfortunately, since I am not Sabrina, I have to chose between the two options. Hence the feeling of conflict.
My years living in Ireland were phenomenal, and I miss it dearly. And its not just my time at University.Even when I lived there after graduating, it was truly magical. I had a fantastic circle of friends, an interesting social life and was happy, doing my research in the trinity library, going to comedy clubs, baking and just living a normal existence. I never wanted to leave. I'd started to learn Irish, and was determined that any children I'd have in the future would speak both Welsh and Irish fluently. I was even contemplating how I'd go about setting up a new political party in Ireland to represent the new Ireland, as I didn't have any affinity with the existing ones and yet wanted to be involved in politics there. I'd floated the idea past a few friends, and there was some consensus that one was needed that wouldn't be entrenched in the politics of yesteryear and yet was different enough to create an impact. An Irish version of Plaid Cymru perhaps!
I didn't make a conscious decision to move back to Wales. It was down to personal circumstances, and the decision was made overnight. And yet, it seems lucky that it did happen. All the things I'm doing now in Wales are the things I'd dreamt of doing when I was a teenager. Plus, more than ever, I really appreciate how important my family and the Welsh language are to me. Its fantastic to be back, and I'm loving working in Cardiff and campaigning in Montgomeryshire. It would be such an honour if I was ever an elected representative in Wales. I care deeply about the future of the country, and would like to contribute to its development for future generations. I wouldn't have had the same passion or understanding of what was needed had I become involved in politics in Ireland to a greater extent than I did. Student politics is very different to grown up politics! But the fact that I'm happy here doesn't mean that I don't miss Ireland. That's why I still say that I'll probably end up retiring in Galway after a career here in Wales! Wouldn't be a bad way to spend the last few years of my life…
Anyway, back to the weekend and my impressions of Dublin since the onset of the recession. Well, there were far less people out during the evenings and far less tourists than usual but other than that, I didn't see much of a difference. There were new expensive shops, bars and restaurants still opening and prices were still sky high in most places. There were certainly far more offers to be seen outside restaurants than usual - 2 for 1 meals or cheap lunch/ dinner meals - but the top end bars and clubs were as expensive as ever. I'd never been to a place called Krystals before, and I doubt I ever will again. It was one of those places where you paid the privilege to enter - 15 Euro - and then the had joy of having to pay sky high prices for drinks. I definitely felt that I shouldn't have eaten for six months if I wanted to fit in there. Oh, plus go platinum blonde with huge hair. And be orange. Skimpy clothes would also have helped. A complete overhaul really. Ah well - you find those sort of pretentious places everywhere unfortunately. I usually manage to avoid them as I much prefer to party in a good old-fashioned pub or a cheesy club anytime!
It was frightening though to hear stories from my friends about acquaintances of ours who have lost their jobs. Many have to consider now either to re-train in something else or move abroad. Both options are tough, especially if you have commitments such as a mortgage or a family. I can't imagine how distressing it must be. None of us ever imagined things would be this bad in Ireland again when we were in University, and its come as a huge shock for the majority. I am confident it will gradually recover though. Things had spiralled out of control and personal greed needed to be reigned in. At least this now puts people rather than profit back on the agenda. Well, that's the hope anyway!
There's an interesting by-election going on in Dublin South at the moment, with RTE's former economics editor George Lee running for Fine Gael. Its quite a coup for the party and his RTE bosses are fuming as they were only told he was quitting to run half an hour before the formal announcement was made. Lee has been very critical as a journalist of Fianna Fail's economic policies and many now feel betrayed that someone who was supposed to be unbiased has decided to run for the opposition party. Indeed, I heard quite a few people say that he would have been much more respected if he'd decided to run as an independent. Lee says he's doing his bit - putting his money where his mouth is. Its certainly a gamble, and I personally think it’s a brave and bold move. It seems that the seat is his to lose now. People seemed to be treating him like a pop star when he was canvassing, with elderly females even saying to him that they were praying for his victory. I'll be watching that result with great interest and will keep you posted on the blog of any developments.