Getting ready to go: six people emigrating this year

Six soon to be emigrants share their plans and reasons for leaving

Adrian Gallagher (35), a carpenter from Co Sligo, said goodbye to his wife Emer and sons Luke (10) and Cian (6) this week to fly to Alberta, Canada. Video: Kathleen Harris

Fri, Jan 24, 2014, 01:00

There may be signs that the economy is improving, but many people feel that career and lifestyle opportunities are better abroad. This year The Irish Times will follow a group of emigrants as they go through the process of leaving here for a new life overseas.

We will chart their progress in the newspaper and on irishtimes.com as they prepare to go, say their goodbyes, settle into their new homes and go about making a new life for themselves elsewhere.

ADRIAN GALLAGHER (35), a carpenter from Co Sligo, said goodbye to his wife Emer and sons Luke (10) and Cian (6) this week to fly to Alberta, Canada

I finished building my house in December 2008. The bottom had fallen out of the construction industry and I was sitting in my new home with no job. I have been out of work for about three months of every year since. I am still a carpenter, but I also paint, or build a wall, or dig a hole. I have a big mortgage and it is hard to make ends meet. Shifts in the Velvet Rooms nightclub kept my van on the road.

Three years ago I was on a start-your-own-business course. In the same hotel, Visa First was running a seminar, and I left my details. Last November they phoned to ask if I’d be interested in Canada. They had a vacancy that would suit a family man like me.

By the time this is printed I will be in Canada. I will see how I get on before deciding how long to stay. The job is as a finishing carpenter with a stone home builder in Grand Prairie. I’m looking forward to learning more about my trade.

There’s loads to do there, with ice rinks and good healthcare and schools. It seems to have it all. I don’t really know what to expect, though. I’ll be in for a shock with the cold weather. I am going with another man from Cork, so I have a comrade. His family is following him in a few months.

Luke is a bit reserved about me going, but Cian is excited about the snow. It will be a challenge for them, but kids are resilient. I hope mine are.

I am seeing it as a challenge, a way out of the financial mess, a way to save a few thousand to have in the bank for unforeseen events. It is a lot to leave behind: my wife, kids, house and the life I’ve built up. But Skype and Facebook bring everyone closer. I am hoping it will be worth a try.

CLAIRE MACKIN (36) and SEAN FITZGERALD (31), with their five-month-old, Isabella, are applying for permanent residency in Australia. He is an electrician and she teaches English

Sean: I became unemployed in 2012. Friends in Australia said I’d have no problem getting work there, so I went over to Perth and got a job straight away.
Claire: We were there for nine months and loved it. We wanted to start a family, and when I got pregnant I moved home to Dundalk for the family support, and Sean followed a month before the baby was born. It was always our intention to go back, as we loved the lifestyle. There are more opportunities work-wise, and the weather is great. The atmosphere is much more positive.
Sean: We don’t feel we are being forced to go. Emigrating is a lifestyle choice for our family. We want Isabella to have an outdoorsy childhood. We know a lot of Irish there who can’t speak highly enough of the education system and the activities for young kids.
Claire: Our families are trying not to think about us leaving, but they know it’s what we want and are very supportive. With Skype it’s easy to keep in touch. We’ll be earning more, which will make flying more affordable. It is not like 20 years ago, where people went to America and never came home.
Sean: I’ve got my trade recognition papers for Australia and have good connections with employers. I’ll fly out to find a place to live when our visas come through before Claire follows with Isabella.
Claire: It will be tough leaving our families and friends. There are mother-and-baby groups in Brisbane, and I’m hoping to gain a new support network. It will be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.

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