Ciara Kenny - “Recovery? Tide of Emigration is Turning, but Slowly”
Emigration is falling as economy improves but there is no wave of returning expats.
Richard Donovan had always wanted to see Australia, so when activity at the civil-works company he worked for began to slow, in early 2008, it seemed the perfect
time to go. The recession that followed in Ireland made his decision to stay in
Brisbane a simple one, as job prospects dwindled at home and the Australian
economy grew and grew. But seven years on, and now with a wife and a four-month-
the Tipperary man has decided it’s finally time to move home.
“Getting a job back in Ireland that will further my career seems possible now for the
first time,” says the 32-year-old. “And with family back home and such a small child,
it seems like the right choice to make. A lot of my friends are talking about making
the move back. We are all in a similar position, having had kids or about to have kids,
and we would all love to see them grow up in Ireland. They all see work at home for
least the husband or wife now. Soon enough a lot of them will be home.”
Donovan’s is a typical recession-to-recovery story of moving away for work and
returning for family as the economy in the home country improves. […]
Seamus Farrell, a 24-year-old youth activist who campaigns on behalf of the Irish
Housing Network and We’re Not Leaving, a youth group campaigning against forced
emigration, says the “recovery” is not
filtering down to young people.
“The recovery is two-tiered,” he says. “A small segment of society is doing all right,
and certain professions living in certain parts of Dublin are doing all right, while the
rest continue to struggle.
The core problems facing young people, namely the high cost of living combined with
a lack of adequately paid and quality employment, have only got worse. Rents
continue to rise in Dublin, and the expansion of
schemes like JobBridge means there
are thousands of mostly young people getting paid next to nothing.”
Farrell knows lots of young people who are still leaving because they can’t afford to
live in Ireland – even if they have a job.
“Of course there has been a slowdown in the numbers going, because there has been
such a large exodus, and if people aren’t coming back we will reach a natural floor. It
is not because the conditions are better
here now but simply because there are fewer
young people left here to leave. There has been a hollowing out of our generation.”
“These are the ones who have attempted to weather out the storm but have reached
their limit, and are saying things are not going to improve, and are leaving for that
reason. These are often the ones with
families,” Mary Gilmartin, a senior lecturer in
geography at Maynooth University, says.
“We know from previous waves of migration that people make the decision to return
not just on economic grounds,” she says. “People move back for family reasons, for
nostalgia. I think it will be a few years before we see this cohort of emigrants making
“Many of them are trying to regularise their status in the country they are living in,
trying to get citizenship in
that country before returning to Ireland so they have the
option to move back there. They might not yet have formed relationships or have had
children, which often becomes the catalyst for them to return.” […]
Society may recover from this wave of mass emigration, Gilmartin says, but it is
important to remember that a scar will remain with many of the individuals, families
and communities that have lost loved ones to other countries in recent years.
“We will never go back to the way it was, but we need to look at how we can learn
from the experience in a positive way. While there is a net balancing off of the
population as a whole, it is made up of lots of different kinds of people, and that
diversity is a huge benefit. But the loss that is experienced by some can’t ever be
(accessed 15 September 2016)
 JobBridge: an internship scheme which provides work experience placements for
interns for a 6-month or 9-month period; formulated in 2011 by the government to