‘I don’t miss the bad news and I don’t worry as much as I used to’

Three recent emigrants to the United States explain why they left Ireland and why there are better opportunities overseas

Jonathan Duncan and his wife Kathy. “We are staying for good – we have no intention of going back.”

Jonathan Duncan and his wife Kathy. “We are staying for good – we have no intention of going back.”


Jonathan Duncan used to listen to the radio driving home from his job at Microsoft in Dublin every evening. The relentless dismal economic news and ever-decreasing take-home pay eventually got to him.

“It was doing-in our heads, how things were going economy-wise,” says the 35-year-old software engineering manager. “It was fairly depressing and we wanted a change.”

He applied for a transfer to Microsoft’s head office in Redmond, Seattle, and moved with his wife Kathy and sons Jack (7) and Sam (5) in July 2011. He plans to stay in the US for the foreseeable future because there are better opportunities for his career and for his children.

“Our parents are still in good health so there is nothing dragging us back. I can see us staying five or 10 years and then reassessing where we are,” he says.

Duncan pays about half the tax he paid in Ireland and his pay “goes a lot further” because there are lower sales taxes in the US. He could afford a much bigger house than he could buy in Dublin.

“I miss certain things – rasher sandwiches and pints of Guinness – but I don’t miss the bad news and I don’t worry as much as I used to,” he says.

Jenny Foxe was entitled to a US work visa through her mother but had to wait 12 years to receive it. While waiting, the 36-year-old publishing graduate from Dublin considered emigrating elsewhere.

“I lost patience with Ireland – it always seemed to be a struggle; we were working very long hours and getting paid very little. It was always hand to mouth,” she says.

After her husband George lost his job, they decided to move to Long Island in New York in July 2012 with their sons Rohan (7) and Damon (5). She is working in a restaurant.

“We are staying for good – we have no intention of going back. We may not stay in New York – there are lots of other states to try. As long as you are prepared to put in the work here, you will get the rewards. We never felt that in Ireland.”

Mary doesn’t want to give her real name because she is living illegally in the US near New York City.

Divorced and paying accommodation for her youngest daughter in college at home in Galway, Mary looks after elderly people in the US and sends money back. She couldn’t afford the separate accommodation for her and her daughter in Ireland where she has close to €100,000 in bank and credit union debts. Her other daughter works in Las Vegas and her son lives abroad.

“I sent back $1,200 last week to my daughter in Ireland and had just $2.50 left over to pay for the bus journey to another job today that I knew I would get paid for,” says the 51-year-old woman.

She is trying to save money to rebuild her home in Ireland that was destroyed in a fire.

“It is very upsetting being apart from my children. I got a card from my daughter in Ireland the other day, saying: ‘I hope the three of us can get together again some day’,” she says.

“We are hoping to rent a house in Ireland next Christmas.”

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