Ciara Kenny

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

‘I’m excited I can now bring my family back to Ireland’

With the continuing fall in property prices, Ireland has a lot to offer us now – and a nice family home in Dublin is much more affordable, says Mark Brennan, who is on his way back from the UK.

Fri, Feb 10, 2012, 08:33


With the continuing fall in property prices, Ireland has a lot to offer us now – and a nice family home in Dublin is much more affordable, says Mark Brennan, who is on his way back from the UK.

Homeward bound: Mark Brennan, his wife Kate, their son and twin daughters

IN 2004 I had finished university with a degree and a Masters, and had been saving while working in advertising in Dublin for a year. I wanted to do something constructive with my savings, and had three choices.

I could have used the money to cover half the deposit for a one-bed flat on the outskirts of Dublin. I was lucky enough to have parents who were willing and able to chip in the other half of the deposit, but I would have ended up with a mortgage that was higher than my gross monthly salary.

I also wanted to learn how to drive, but as I was a male under the age of 25, my annual insurance quote was more than €3,000. Added to the price of a small car and lessons, all my money would have been blown on that alone.

The third option was to take a year off work to travel. It was a no-brainer. I knew that if I didn’t take the opportunity to see the world while I was still young, I might not get the chance again, so I bought a round-the-world ticket with a friend and headed off on an adventure.

I travelled by train across America, bussed it through South America, spent six months working in Australia, headed to New Zealand for the Lions tour, before making my way through southeast Asia on the way back to Europe.

A few days before I was due to fly home, I was sitting in an internet cafe in Bangkok and I realised I really wasn’t ready to go back to Ireland.

The advertising industry in Ireland is very compact, and I didn’t see as many opportunities for myself there as there were in London. I also felt the boom in Ireland had passed me by.

My flight was routed through London, so I applied for a few jobs there and went for an interview the morning I landed. They offered me the position and I stayed.

The original plan was to spend a few years there, gain some experience in the industry, jump ahead a little faster in my career than would be possible at home, and then bring that experience back to Ireland.

Like many young Irish coming to London, I started off on a friend’s couch until I got myself sorted. His place was in Dollis Hill, which is an old traditional Irish area in the northwest of the city. I moved from there to Clapham, or County Clapham as we used to call it due to the sheer number of Irish, and lived there for about three years before relocating to Kensal Green, where I became more assimilated into London life and a little more distanced from the Irish community.

I met and married an English girl, Kate, and have since had a son and twin daughters. We didn’t want to bring up our kids in such a big city, so for the past two years we have been living in Bath, near Kate’s family, and I commute back and forth to London every day.

The train has become my mobile office, and it is possible to get work done during the three-hour commute, but it is tiring and it has been hard on my family, because I’m not there as much as I should be or want to be.

I had assumed that the possibility of returning home was closed to me for the moment, and would be for many years until the economy recovered. But luckily, I have been working on an account for Guinness for the last few years, and an opportunity has recently arisen for me to set up a new satellite office for my existing company in Dublin.

Myself and my wife and children are due to move back to Dublin in April, and for the first time in years, I can see opportunities there for us. I am genuinely excited about the chance to come home and make a life for my family in Ireland.

Ireland has a lot to offer us now. The price of property has come way down, and a nice family home in Dublin is much more affordable compared with five years ago. Back then, I was priced out of Ireland.

Living in Dublin, we will be close to the sea and the mountains. I will be able to see my children during the week, because I will be home from work before they go to bed in the evenings. Overall, I know quality of life for my family and my own personal work-life balance will be much better in Ireland than it could be in the UK.

London is a tremendous city, but it is a young person’s city. The prospect of bringing up a family there is a daunting one. Many people, like us, decide to move out and commute.

Although my journey is an extreme one, many people do it. It is not so much the travelling but what you miss out on that makes it unsustainable.

We’re very much looking forward to living in Dublin and having a sense of balance back in our lives.

– In conversation with CIARA KENNY

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