'Seeing people coming out with babies and presenting them to grandparents is lovely'


Some had been away for only a few months, but others hadn’t set foot on Irish soil for more than two years. As they spilled out into the arrivals area yesterday, many of them looked bleary-eyed and tired after their journeys from such far-flung places as Singapore, St Lucia, Toronto and Brisbane.

“The kids are the only thing that matter and being parted from them is miserable. There’s no point in pretending otherwise,” said Jacqueline Flynn from Navan, Co Meath.

Sometimes the simple sentiment captures the moment best. She was expressing what many parents at Dublin Airport felt as they waited for their grown-up children to return home for Christmas.

Mrs Flynn and her husband Jimmy had not seen their daughter Jenny, who works as a speech and language therapist in Singapore, since February.

She had failed to get work in Ireland despite achieving an honours degree from Trinity College Dublin and had been forced to go abroad in search of a job. “The last eight months have been horrific. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” her mother said.

When Jenny finally emerged from baggage reclaim, there were shrieks, then tears followed by smiles.

It was a scene played out time and time again yesterday as streams of emigrants returned home .

Busiest day

More than 620,000 people are expected to travel through Dublin Airport over the Christmas period, according to the Dublin Airport Authority’s Siobhan Moore. Tomorrow is expected to be the busiest day.

Ms Moore, who is used to fielding questions about air traffic delays or cancellations, said Christmas was a “magical time” to be working at the airport.

“One thing that we’re noticing is that there are a lot of grandparents coming out because their sons and daughters are returning and they’ve got new babies, which the grandparents haven’t seen before,” she said.

“Seeing people coming out with babies and presenting them to the grandparents is just lovely.”

In the middle of it all, an anxious-looking Ben Wilson (4) stood holding a hand-crafted poster that read: “Welcome Home Daddie”. He and his brother Max (10), along with their mother Gráinne, from Bettystown, Co Meath, were waiting for their father, Tony, who has been working as an electrician in London for the past three years.

Although her husband is not far way and comes back often, Mrs Wilson said she still misses being together as a family.

“We couldn’t move to London as a family because we bought a house and then couldn’t sell it.”

It’s a modern take on the age-old emigration story.

Neil Killeen (32) from Whitehall in Dublin, who had just flown in from Perth, Australia, where he has been working for seven years as a carpenter, was met by his sister Michelle.

Surprise visit

She had a Santa outfit in a bag for him, which he was planning to put on before making a surprise call to his mother, who was not expecting him home for Christmas.

Airport arrival halls can be poignant places at the best of times but at Christmas they are supercharged with emotion.

Genevieve Conroy from Castleknock in Dublin, who works as a primary school teacher in Sydney, arrived home with her Australian boyfriend Ronan Power for first time since last Christmas.

“I find it more sad when I see her coming home . . . I don’t know what it is . . . it must just be the build-up when you don’t see them for so long,” her father, Seamus, said.

Ray and Siobhan Sherlock had travelled from Limerick to welcome home their son Eoin (33), his wife Caroline and their young children.

“I’d prefer if they were here in Ireland but opportunities arose and they had to go abroad,” Mr Sherlock said.

He will return to the airport today to collect his other son John, his wife Chizuna and their one-year-old child Takumi, who live in Toyko.

He also has another son who lives in Australia but who could not make it home for Christmas this year.