Ciara Kenny

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

From Ireland to the rest of the world: Has everything gone to plan?

Sarah Doran is in Berkshire, Brian Sheehy in Toronto, but our emigrants to Australia are still at home

The waiting game: Sean Fitzgerald and Claire Mackin are still in Dundalk, waiting for their permanent residency application for Australia to come through.

Sat, May 31, 2014, 01:00


Ciara Kenny

Last week we began catching up with some of the people we spoke with at the beginning of the year who were intending to emigrate in 2014 (read their pre-departure January interviews here). Here, we talk to the remainder, and find out that for some, not everything has gone to plan.

SARAH DORAN, Berkshire, UK

Doran (23) graduated with a degree in speech and language therapy from Trinity College last year. She moved to Berkshire in February to take up a permanent position in the NHS, working with children with communication needs.

Leaving Ireland to work in the UK wasn’t hard. It felt like I was just going for a holiday.

I spent my first weekend in the UK driving, practising for the commute to Berkshire from my uncle’s house in Wembley, where I was staying until I found my own place. After being a cautious occasional driver of my mother’s automatic Micra, driving my new manual car down the infamous M4 and M25 motorways and navigating London rush hour traffic was terrifying.

After that, starting a new job in a new country didn’t seem quite so daunting. My team have been so welcoming and supportive. My job is stressful, and the NHS has some faults. But I love what I do here.

I love running drop-in clinics where parents can bring their child for a quick assessment. I love telling those parents that their child will wait weeks or months for therapy, as opposed to the years some have to wait in Ireland. The contrast is stark.

I’ve promised myself I will visit at least one interesting place a week, to make the most of being here and to stave off homesickness. I have explored my local area, admired the quaint villages nearby, had a nosey around Windsor Castle (free entry as I am a resident of the Royal Borough now), been shopping in Reading and made one trip further afield to Bristol.

Overall, my life has completely changed in just three months. I’ve gone from being an unemployed graduate, trying to remain upbeat despite constant setbacks in my job search, to doing a job I adore in an exciting city. Even though I miss family and friends, I’m much happier than I was at home.

BRIAN SHEEHY, Toronto, Canada

Sheehy (27), from Baltimore in west Cork, quit his job in insurance in Dublin to move to Toronto in March.

I was meant to fly out on March 13th, but my grandmother was ill and passed away on the 12th. I rebooked my flights to stay until after the funeral. It was even harder saying goodbye to my family, given the circumstances.

The first few days in Toronto were really tough. My head was all over the place, going from a house full of people to being completely on my own in a strange city.

I was a bit shy at first but quickly got to know a few people in the hostel I was staying in. The Irish Immigration Centre were hugely helpful, and I went to a seminar for new immigrants which gave advice on everything from getting a job to opening a bank account.

I moved out of the hostel only last week. It was a struggle to find a house, especially without a credit rating here. It took time to figure out my budget and how much I could afford on rent, and where I wanted to live. I probably stayed too long in the hostel, but I made lots of friends there and got my bearings for the downtown area.

I saw on Facebook through a mutual friend that a guy I was in school with was looking for a roommate. So I’m moving to the Distillery District, a really cool area of the city with lots of new bars and restaurants.

After I took part in a video about my intentions to emigrate for The Irish Times in January, two people reached out through LinkedIn. One well-connected Irish woman gave me some really good work contacts and a lot of great advice about the move.

Through her, I was put in touch with the Toronto office of Allianz, the company I worked with in Dublin, and after a few interviews I was offered a similar role to the one I held before. I’m delighted. The same company that gave me a job in the middle of a recession in Ireland has also given me an opportunity after I decided to leave home. It will further my career and give me the international experience I wanted.

Another man here 17 years also got in touch and we’ve been meeting regularly for coffee. His local knowledge has been invaluable.


Gibney (28) planned to move to Sydney on a working holiday visa in February after losing her job with a publishing company in Waterford last year, but delayed booking flights after an unexpected work opportunity arose.

My long-awaited trip to Australia has become a running joke among my family and friends. I’m still plodding away here in Ireland but still intend to go the end of July.

I was very apprehensive whether Australia was the right decision for me. I wasn’t sure the opportunities there would be any better than Ireland for someone looking for work in writing.

In a bid to gather more money and gain more experience, I began freelancing. Myself and a web designer friend began approaching local businesses with a low-cost digital communication package. To my surprise, my efforts have paid off. I have a nice amount of work at the moment, and a list of satisfied clients.

People are asking me why I’m still intending to go when things are starting to look up here at home. I tell them I’m more certain now than ever. Freelancing has improved my professional confidence and job prospects. If I hadn’t started on this path, I could have had huge gaps in my CVwhile I was trying to figure out how to get started in Australia.

I’m glad I waited, I feel less at the mercy of job markets and more in control of my own fate. I will still be aiming to find full-time permanent work, but I can continue to use freelancing to supplement my income. It’s also something that I can pursue anywhere in the world, so why not somewhere sunny?


Fitzgerald (31), with his partner Claire Mackin (36) and their 10-month-old Isabella, are applying for permanent residency in Australia. He is an electrician and she teaches English

Sean: We had expected to be in Brisbane by now but we’re still in Dundalk, waiting for our visas. We are applying for permanent residency through the state nomination scheme in Queensland. As electricians are in demand, we are confident we will qualify.

It has been an arduous and costly process getting my trade qualifications recognised by immigration services. We’ve provided all the documentation through a visa agent, and I’ve done an online exam. There are so many people going for these visas now; it has taken about three months longer than we expected.

We’re renting at the moment and neither of us are working. Work in my filed has dried up dramatically, even in the last few months. With rent and living costs for the three of us, our savings are reducing. But we have enough put aside to keep us going.

I have a lot of connections in Brisbane and have been in touch with some large recruitment agencies so I won’t have any trouble getting a job. Claire has friends there who’ve been giving us recommendations on places to live so we’ve been doing a lot of research. There’s a lot you can’t do until you get over, but we want to be prepared.

Once the visas come through, I’ll be on the first plane to Brisbane, a few weeks before Claire and the baby to get us set up. The wait will be worth it in the end.

This article appears in Weekend Review today. To read the January interviews with our 2014 emigrants, including some short videos, see Getting ready to go: Six people emigrating this year