Dr. Sabine Eggers is heavily involved in community life in South Tipperary.
Is there a change in attitude towards EU citizens working in Ireland, questions Carrick-on-Suir pharmacist Dr. Sabine Eggers.
I studied pharmacy at the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Hamburg in Germany and I also received a PhD from the same university.
While I was working on my doctorate, my professor took a sabbatical leave from his position in Hamburg and went to the Department of Chemistry at University College Cork (UCC). I was curious about a country I had never been to before, so in 1991 I applied for funding from the German government to join him for three months in Ireland.
I fell in love with the Irish people and countryside. Having grown up in a very regulated, controlled country where you are not allowed to cut your lawn after 7pm in the evening or on Sunday and holy days where you are not allowed to park in a parking spot if your car is not facing the flow of traffic, I found Ireland to be free of these rules and I was delighted with this kind of attitude and freedom.
After three months, I returned to Germany to complete my PhD, but I was hooked on Ireland. I finished my PhD work in 1992 with an outstanding result and the European Community and the German Pharmaceutical Industry awarded grants for research which I could use in Europe and further afield.
At this stage, I had made up my mind that I needed to return to Ireland and I made arrangements to work in UCC once again at the Department of Food Technology under Professor Charles Daly and the Department of Nutrition under Professor Pat Morrissey.
At UCC, I played table tennis for the university team and soon represented Munster at the inter-provincial championships. I felt very much at home as I do not look different to Irish people and it is only when I spoke that people noticed that I was not from here. A regular conversation would have been: “Oh, I love your Kerry accent” which made me laugh and then I would explain that I’m from Germany. The reply often was: “We won’t hold that against you”. I truly enjoyed this kind of banter and never felt like a foreigner or even unwanted.
My funding ran out in 1997 so I returned to Germany and worked for Aventis as a clinical project manager. I hated every minute of this as I missed my friends in Ireland and the Irish lifestyle with later starts in the morning and live music in pubs.
In 1998, I returned to Cork and worked as a pharmacist, mostly in managerial positions, until 2008 when my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in Hamburg. As we are a small family and as only I have medical knowledge, I returned to Germany with a heavy heart to support him through his treatment.
Two years went by and my father made a full recovery. At this point, in 2010, the Irish pharmacy scene had collapsed, with a lot of pharmacy closures. At this point, I decided to try and find work in the UK as there was so much to learn about pharmacy services to the patients.
I worked in the UK for Lloyds and ASDA managing one of their retail academies from 2010-2013. I learnt a great deal about pharmacy services to patients which are not available here today, but was missing Ireland.
In September 2013, I returned to Ireland and took up a position with a well-known pharmacy chain in Waterford city. But I barely recognised the country I loved so much, as from day one of my employment as supervising pharmacist, I was exposed to negative comments about my nationality from within the store. What had happened to Ireland and some of the Irish people since I left in 2008? Why was there this hostility towards a highly qualified EU foreigner like me?
Since October 2014, I have been working in a pharmacy in Carrick-on-Suir. While I am happy within the team, I cannot but notice an element of negativity by a few customers towards me. One time a person spat at me and told me that there are too many foreigners in the country, while another person said it’s impossible to understand what I am saying. I have been lecturing for Sona Nutrition Ltd. on herbal remedies and food supplements to pharmacists nationwide (up to 200 people at any one time) since 1998, also at UCC’s Department of Pharmacy and for the National Learning Network in Wexford. I was never told that it’s impossible to understand me.
Another person phoned the pharmacy and was looking for the owner. I said he was not there and was told by the caller that the owner was “putting the foreigner on the phone” and “bless your accent”.
I honestly believe that this kind of behaviour is completely out of order. I have given talks on health matters at Carrick-on-Suir library, the Active Retirement group, Scoil Mhuire, the CBS and the Faugheen and Carrick guilds of the ICA.
I volunteer with the Irish Red Cross branch in Carrick-on-Suir and will drive the ambulance on St. Stephen’s Day this year. I also support the C.A.R.E. Cancer Support Centre in Clonmel and give them talks on healthy living.
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