Ciara Kenny

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

Visitors in their own country

Holidays at home made some emigrants want to move back. Others were glad to leave again. CIARA KENNY talks to emigrants who returned this summer.

Fri, Aug 31, 2012, 08:00


Holidays at home made some emigrants want to move back. Others were glad to leave again. CIARA KENNY talks to emigrants who returned this summer

KEVIN KELEHAN: ‘The last 12 months have made a huge difference to people’s attitudes’

Kevin Kelehan

When I first moved to London to work in real estate in 2005, I came back to Ireland about three times a year. Now I visit every four to six weeks. It doesn’t seem at all odd for me to just hop on a plane and come home at short notice. Sterling has regained its strength against the euro, which makes it much easier for me to visit more often.

All of my old friends are still living and working in Dublin. The social scene in London can be very uptight, so I much prefer going out in Dublin where everyone mingles and is up for a good time. Dublin is a really young city, and it hasn’t lost that feel.

The last 12 months have made a huge difference to people’s attitudes, in Dublin at least. Friends of mine, even those with good jobs earning good money, were paranoid and afraid to spend anything for a few years, in case they were the next ones to lose their jobs. I have seen them relaxing recently; I think they realise now that if the carnage hasn’t hit them yet, it probably won’t.

There seems to be a new restaurant open in the Camden Street area every time I come back. Try to get into some of these places, even on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, and they tell you to come back in half an hour.

Business is booming for those who have stuck their neck out and invested in good ideas. There is definitely an appetite for quality, good-value restaurants like that in Dublin now.

There’s more talk about investment opportunities among my friends too, whereas a few years ago conserving savings was the main concern. There are some very attractive real-estate deals out there, so in many ways it is easier to open a new business in Ireland than it has been in a very long time. Getting the seed capital is the biggest challenge.

My regular trips back to Dublin have helped me to realise the possibilities open to me in Ireland now, and I am planning to move back for good within the next 12 months.

CAITRÍONA SHERIDAN: ‘That first breath of air when I stepped off the plane was lovely’

Caitríona Sheridan in Killarney National Park

When I booked a two-week trip home to Kildare from London this summer, I envisaged escaping the chaos in the city during the Olympics. That first breath of fresh air when I stepped off the plane in Dublin Airport was so lovely, compared with the polluted, muggy air of London, where I am studying for a PhD.

For the first week I did the rounds and saw friends in Cork, Dublin, Athlone and Kilbeggan. Some of my Irish friends have moved to Australia and New Zealand, and a few are in the UK, but all those who are still in Ireland are thankfully working or studying, and are happy to be there.

The second week, my boyfriend Alwyn came over from England and I got to show the country off to him. He was brought around the main tourist attractions in Dublin, before taking a trip down to Killarney and Rossbeigh Beach in Kerry.

The week he was over was the best weather Ireland has had all summer I believe, so he has a very rosy view of the country now. It was his first time visiting Ireland, and he is already talking about going back again at Christmas.

My parents are used to me living away from home as I went to a boarding school before moving to Cork to study, but they were still delighted to have me back. I am my mum’s only child, so it is very special for her. She drove me over to the UK in January and was very upset to leave me there.

When I was studying in Ireland I used to come home most weekends, but I don’t have the luxury of that now.

I have certainly become more Irish since moving away, and my visits home remind me of all the things I appreciate about Ireland now that I hadn’t noticed so much when I lived there. The familiar sights, sounds and smells are what make Ireland home.

The most difficult thing was boarding the plane to London and, after taking off, seeing the city disappear into the distance. I try not to go back to the UK without having a definite plan to return to Ireland again, so I have already booked my flights home for Christmas.

MICHELLE McGILL: ‘I enjoy coming home, but it’s comforting to know I am able to leave again’

Michelle McGill (centre) with friends in Waterford

I work as a primary school teacher in Abu Dhabi, which means I can come back for the summer to escape the heat. It can reach up to 50 degrees there in August.

The two months of holidays every year are a great time to catch up with friends and family in Waterford. Most people are busy at work when I come back, so it can be a little boring sometimes. I try to take as many trips around the country as I can.

I have been living away from Ireland for 10 years, since I was 18. I studied in England, then spent two and a half years teaching in Korea before moving to Abu Dhabi two years ago.

It has been getting bleaker and bleaker coming home over the past few years, with all the talk of unemployment and the recession. This summer seems especially bad, maybe it is because the weather has been so awful.

I enjoy coming home to visit, but it is comforting to know I am able to leave again. I would like to stay, but there is no point when I wouldn’t be able to find work.

Some friends of mine who are employed say they feel trapped, that they can’t go travelling because they are afraid they won’t be able to find a job when they return. I feel lucky that I can come and go like I do. I don’t really get homesick any more. There’s nowhere like Ireland, but I’m happy to be living away for the time being.

VERA KEOGH: ‘It was great to see the country through the eyes of a tourist’

Vera Keogh with husband Colm, son Naoise and daughter Enya

One year and two months after our family’s emotional departure from Ireland, myself, my husband Colm, son Naoise (7) and daughter Enya (3) made the 10-hour trip to Dublin from our new home on Bowen Island in Vancouver, Canada.

Our first stop was a wonderful homecoming meal at grandma’s in Co Laois.

The countryside was as lovely as we remembered, but we commented on the size of the trees and how small they seemed in comparison to the Douglas fir in Canada. It was great to be able to see the country through the eyes of a tourist.

The Irish welcome seemed very much alive as we visited some old haunts on our trip, and we were very impressed with the hospitality, food and service everywhere we went.

To be with family and to see our children enjoying the company of grandma, grandaunts, granduncles, cousins, aunts and uncles highlighted how much they are missing out on these wonderful relationships by being so far away from them. Our son had many play dates with his best friend and it was good to know the friendship will outlast the distance placed between them.

The few weeks flew by and when the time came to pack our bags it was very difficult to leave. Saying goodbye was hard both for family that we were leaving and for ourselves, but the parting words of “from the minute we leave it’s a minute closer to us seeing each other again” were very comforting.

We have settled back into life on Bowen Island since our return last week, and are enjoying the remaining days of summer sunshine. We have family here in Canada and wonderful new friends.

PATRICK FARRELL: ‘Nothing can compare to catching up with friends and family in person’

Patrick Farrell in his mother's garden in Claregalway

Facebook and Skype are great for keeping in touch while you’re living away from home, but nothing can compare to catching up with friends and family in person. I had been looking forward to my summer trip home from Dubai since my last visit in early December.

I have three brothers and two sisters, some of whom are studying in other places around the country, but they were all home in Claregalway, Co Galway at some stage for July and August.

A lot of my friends are still in college and when I was back last winter they were all busy preparing for exams and finishing off end-of-term projects. They were much more relaxed and available to meet up this time. I used to always help my mum out in the garden when I was younger, and we spent a lot of time out there together while I was home.

I took a trip to New York for a week, a holiday within a holiday. I took the opportunity while I was there to scope out what it would be like to live and work in New York, as I don’t want to stay in Dubai forever.

The local shop close to where I live has closed recently but other businesses in the town seem to be doing okay. The media was very pessimistic when I was last home but presenters on the radio were a lot more upbeat this time round. That could be just because it is summer. Katie Taylor winning gold at the Olympics gave the whole country a huge boost, and it was great to be back in Ireland for that.

I’m quite used to saying goodbye to friends and family at this stage so it wasn’t as hard to leave this time. I love travelling and experiencing new countries; however, there really is no place like home.

This article was printed in The Irish Times today, and is on the main website here.