Ciara Kenny

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

‘Many of my emigrant friends are now moving back home’

Most are leaving Australia in case they regret not taking the chance to move home, writes Justin Connell

'I plan to settle and raise a family here in Australia, but my Irish heritage, our culture and way of life will be an essential part of their upbringing.'

Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 09:02


Justin Connell

My decision to travel had been made years before the cracks in our banking system were evident. Close friends were getting mortgages and property, and I was getting out to go and see the world. That was the easy bit. I left in mid-2008 for a working holiday in Australia via Southeast Asia. After a month or two of couch-surfing up the east coast of Australia, Brisbane became a very appealing place to stay a while.

Work came relatively easily, and the lifestyle was fantastic. I had strong network of friends from school and university already there, which helped keep the homesickness and inexplicable guilt away.

Five years on, many of that same network of friends are making the move back home, permanent residency or dual citizenship in hand. For the most part, they are returning in case they will regret not taking the chance to go back, rather than a genuine desire to live and (hopefully) work alongside their families and friends; the ones that are still there at least.

Saying goodbye to them is bittersweet. We have all gone through something together. We have formed an almost familial bond by being each other’s family on the far side of the world. I bid them farewell, hoping it works out for them, that their dreams of home don’t get shattered by a different country to the one we left behind, but knowing full well, I will see them again, here or there.

That said, a different country to the one we left behind is exactly what I dream of.

The country I left in 2008 was reeling from the “shock” of discovering what the dog on the street already knew. Our politicians and leaders of industry had been making up the rules as they went along, selling land at low tide, knowing full well that the waters were rising, and my generation were badly burned within months of my departure.

That, I can forgive. What I can’t forgive is the treatment of the older generation by the Government, the raiding, delaying and sequestering of pension funds is a disgrace that I cannot and will not forgive. Having to leave to build my future is tough, but to see the foundations being pulled out from under my parents, aunts and uncles infuriates me.

Not being able to cast a vote without planning a trip home for an election also infuriates me. I have asked the question of many people, but no good reason can be found, aside from the fact that it is a sure fire way to get rid of parish pump gombeens for once and for all from Irish politics. To introduce it would be mass suicide for any member of a political party in Ireland. As such, it will probably never happen. In my mind it remains the single biggest change required for a nation that needs to evolve to re-establish its place in the global village.

Both Australia and Ireland have roles to play in my future. I plan to settle and raise a family here in Australia, but my Irish heritage, our culture and way of life will be an essential part of their upbringing. Ireland will always be my home, but I doubt it will have the same familiarity for my children, despite the promises I make to myself.

I know I have the full support of my loving Australian fiancee in my aims, through the long-haul flights and endless reams of consular forms to be completed. She loves visiting Ireland and is fascinated by our quirky ways, swift speech and rich history.

The plan has always been for us to live in Ireland for a few years at least, to see if she can endure the weather, and I the political system. Perhaps it would offer an opportunity to throw my hat in the political ring and affect some change.

Justin Connell (31), originally from Westmeath, works as an engineer and project manager in Queensland.