In their own words: How Irish emigrants viewed the bailout

For those hoping for a quick economic recovery, the bailout was the final nail in their emigrant ship

Fri, Dec 13, 2013, 01:00

As the date for Ireland’s exit from the EU/IMF bailout approaches, we asked Irish emigrants abroad through the Generation Emigration blog for their opinions on the financial crisis. Did it affect their decision to leave, or their opinion of Ireland from afar? Here’s a selection of responses.

Kate Kirwan (25) left Dublin three years ago, and works as a 3D modeller for a construction company in Vancouver.

I could see the writing on the wall during my last year in college in 2010. I studied architectural technology, and our lecturers knew there were no jobs for us; we were urged to move to London where there were more opportunities. I’d always wanted to go to Canada, and the construction industry was booming there.

My boyfriend and I moved to Vancouver in October that year, three weeks before the bailout. We’d never been to Canada, never lived together and never paid bills. We were 22 and this was our “year away” to gain some experience before returning to Ireland when our visas were up in 2011.

But when the bailout happened, we realised we didn’t have a chance of getting work in construction at home.

Three years later we’re still here, Canadian permanent residents.

When the bailout was agreed I wasn’t surprised, but it bothers me that the Irish people were put in such a position.

:We have followed the banking crisis since we left, online through The Irish Times and by streaming RTÉ news, as well as discussing it with friends and family on Skype.

If the economy recovered we would love to move back, but I honestly don’t know if we actually would. We both have great jobs here – my boyfriend is a carpenter’s apprentice, studying part-time in an IT with the backing of his employer. I work as a 3D computer modeller for a construction company, a job I love that simply doesn’t exist at home right now.

The bailout exit won’t affect me in the short term. I can’t see any real change occurring for years, especially in the construction sector.

We have so much opportunity here; good jobs, pensions, amazing healthcare that is heavily subsidised.

These are things we simply wouldn’t get at home.

Aoife McCarthy (26) left Dublin in 2010 for Perth, Australia, where she works as a speech and language therapist.

I left Ireland by choice. I had worked for a year and done some further study after my degree and I was looking for a bit of adventure. The recession had begun before I left, but I think people didn’t believe it would last as long as it has.

I have been watching what has been happening with sadness but also some hope. The recession has not prevented me from returning but has definitely caused me some worry about what will happen when I do. I am actually heading home, hopefully for good, this Christmas.

From the outside it seems like the economy is slowly improving in Ireland. Exiting the bailout seems positive, and I note the unemployment rate is slowly declining. But it will take a while for these changes to filter through to everyday lives and finances. It appears many are struggling to make ends meet. News stories often contradict each other; some celebrate the positives of Ireland, the “success story of the EU”, while others report an increase in homelessness.

I have met many people through my travels who report that they are done with Ireland and feel very hard done by. Many of them worked in construction so I can understand. After being unemployed, they’ve decided to make a go of it somewhere else which is brave, and in many cases they have been very successful.

But I am returning to Ireland upbeat and hopeful. I am coming home because I miss Ireland and most of all my family. As much as I love Australia, I don’t see myself living here forever. And the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. Logically and financially it probably makes more sense for me to stay, but my heart has won out.

Eamon O’Hara (45) left Co Carlow in 2001. He now lives in France with his family where he works as a writer and consultant on European affairs .

I left Ireland in the early years of the Celtic Tiger in 2001. I was offered a job in Brussels and I wasn’t too unhappy about leaving as I found the quality of life had deteriorated significantly in Ireland. We could only afford to live in a not-so-good area and there was congestion everywhere. It was obvious a bubble was developing.

Watching the banking crisis and bailout from afar I felt disappointed. So much of the crisis seemed avoidable. Property was overpriced and both the government and the banks continued to fuel speculation through tax incentives and lax borrowing rules. I know some journalists in Ireland were drawing attention to this, but many others weren’t, and where were the opposition parties?

When the bailout happened I remember feeling quite emotional. I’m very proud to be Irish. I still consider Ireland to be my home, and I always will, and it was upsetting to see the country in that situation. While I had expected the property bubble to burst sooner or later, the scale of the problem when it happened was quite horrific

The blame was placed squarely on the banks and the government, and rightly so. But I guess there’s also a level of personal responsibility and the people who overstretched themselves buying second properties, or in some cases third and fourth properties, also have to accept their part.

Ireland has performed reasonably well since the bailout agreement. The terms were quite strict and by following these the country does seem to be finding its way back. But it’s a slow and difficult process, which is also heavily influenced by what happens outside of Ireland.

The Irish bailout was reported fairly extensively here in France when it was first agreed but not so much since then. The French really like the Irish, however, and there is a lot of goodwill towards Ireland.

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