Standing at the top of the Ballymun tower blocks on the northside of Dublin one can see the runway of Dublin airport no more than a mile away. My cousin Michael constantly spoke of “leaving home”. He was fifteen years old at the time and already knew his future was in America. He was completely obsessed with the idea. I realised later that his aspiration was not unusual. Michael like most of his school friends in Ballymun Senior Comprehensive School had already realised that there was no future for them in Ireland. Many commentators including journalist Fintan O’Toole had argued that Ireland’s young citizens were being educated and prepared for a life abroad, he wrote citing George Thompson, ‘in the old days, only those had emigrated who could not stay at home; now, only those stayed at home who could not emigrate’.
Between 1989 and 1990 I lived and worked as an artist in Ballymun, where I produced this (my first) photographic series. The title of this project, Home was somewhat ironic given that its underlying impetus was to examine the very conditions which forced this particular group of Irish citizens to emigrate. But as O’Toole comments, ‘Home, became in Irish culture, not so much the place you were as the place you wanted to be, a place as much imagined as remembered or experienced’.