Ciara Kenny

The Irish Times forum by and for Irish citizens living overseas,

The Commute: the inspiration

“There’s a new brand of Irish who can’t find work locally, yet have too many ties to pack up and leave Ireland entirely.” Philip Gallagher, director and producer of The Commute which airs on RTE tonight writes about the inspiration behind the programme.

Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 01:47

   

“There’s a new brand of Irish who can’t find work locally, yet have too many ties to pack up and leave Ireland entirely.” Philip  Gallagher, director and producer of The Commute which airs on RTE tonight writes about the inspiration behind the programme.

RTÉ ONE, MONDAY 31st October @ 21:30

Last year I read a story about a guy who was travelling from Cork to Belfast twice weekly for work. He explained that he was desperate to pay off mounting bills at home and would try anything to alleviate the situation, so he had no choice but to make this extreme commute. Over the course of the next 6 months, it became apparent that he wasn’t the only one travelling a long distance for work.

We’re all aware of the deluge of migrants heading to Australia and North America right now, but there’s a whole other brand of Irish who can’t find work locally, yet have too many ties to pack up and leave Ireland entirely.  A growing number of these are finding work elsewhere, whether it be the UK or further afield, but are returning on a routine basis.

For this collective, the term ‘semigrant’ has been coined. It is this burgeoning trend that spawned my interest in filming ‘The Commute.’ Boom time Ireland and the subsequent bust have changed indelibly the flow of commuting patterns across the country. I wanted to find out how long distance journeys are impacting on peoples’ lives, what lengths people would go to support their families financially.

Dublin now has an enormous commuter belt. Motorways are lined with thirty somethings on a Monday morning , many of whom bought houses in counties like Wicklow , Kildare, Louth during the Celtic Tiger because they were cheaper than buying in the capital. These people now find themselves in negative equity with a lengthy commute to boot.

In addition, a whole new group of extreme commuters has emerged in the West of Ireland since 2007. Try sitting on a morning train from Limerick to Dublin and you’ll easily find daily commuters making the 4 hour round trip, often people who would never have considered a 5 day commute pre 2007.

A number of local airports have seen internal routes discarded this year, because of falling passenger numbers. But their UK routes have never had it so good. Flights to England from places like Donegal, Kerry and Knock, are jammed on a Sunday evening with transnational commuters. These are often fathers, or mothers, leaving their loved ones behind for the week, eeking out a living abroad and then returning home for a brief encounter with family before doing it all over again the following week.

The central question raised in The Commute is ‘How far would you travel to get work in the recession?’ Well from what I’ve seen making this programme, the answer is clearly a long way.

Philip Gallager, Director/ Producer of ‘The Commute’

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