Brexit, returning to Ireland and Dublin: Top 2019 stories from Irish Abroad

Most-read articles were personal stories about moving home, life after Brexit vote and the best cities in the world to move to


Stories about the struggles emigrants face where they live in the world topped our most popular list this year - from the struggle of creating a new life after moving back to Ireland to the struggles Irish emigrants in Britain face as Brexit edges closer.

Thank you to everyone who contributed in 2019, or just read our stories. Here’s the list of the top 10 most popular of the year:

1. ‘I have cried every day since I returned to Ireland’

“It’s been one month since I returned to Ireland after almost six years living abroad. To say the transition back to life in Ireland has been difficult would be an understatement. I’m 29-years-old and fast approaching 30. When I made the decision to return, for family and educational reasons, I wasn’t expecting the personal shock that would follow,” wrote Nollaig O’Connor, in an article that prompted thousands of reactions and comments on social media, and has since become our most-read ever in this section online, with many Irish people agreeing with her observations and experiences, and others disagreeing.

2. ‘I’m exhausted explaining to British people the geography of their own country’

Brexit was a hotly discussed topic on our site throughout the year. Our most popular Brexit-related article this year is from regular Abroad contributor Peter Flanagan, who is based in London. He wrote how many people in Britain are unaware that Ireland is a separate country. “As an immigrant here, the regular task of having to explain the geography of their own country to British people while simultaneously trying to sound like a grateful, ‘good’ immigrant is getting exhausting,” he wrote. The comedian’s article got a big reaction online with more than 200 comments from subscribers and hundreds on social media.

3. I’ve handed in my notice and I’m leaving Brexit Britain

Our second most-read Brexit article, and third most read overall, was from Margaret Donnellan in London. Donnellan’s thoughts on life after Brexit in Britain evoked a strong reaction from readers. She explained: “Brexit isn’t going anywhere. So we have to go instead. This is the conclusion that my husband and I have ultimately reached after much reflection and debate that began on June 24th, 2016. My grandfather died that morning, and I will always remember it for that reason. But something else died too - my future in London. And I’ve spent long enough grieving for that,” she wrote.

4. Dublin ranked the worst city in the world to move to for housing

A global expat study that revealed the best and worst cities for people to move to and work in 2020 was our fourth most popular article this year. Ireland’s capital was ranked in last place for housing out of the 82 cities surveyed in the Expat City Ranking 2019 by Internations, which is mainly a social community for expats, with San Francisco and Munich second and third worst. The top five destinations to move to were Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Singpore and Montréal. Expats were unhappiest in Kuwait city, followed by Rome, Milan, Lagos (Nigeria) and Paris. Full list here.

5. Good Lord, Ireland, you make it hard: An emigrant’s battle to become Irish again

Helen O’Rahilly originally wrote an article about returning home, how much she had missed her homeland and a list of of all the things she loved about Ireland. “I had encountered only decency and kindness on my return to Ireland, and I still stand by that article,” she said. But three months later she wrote another honest article to serve as “ warning” to emigrants thinking of moving home, which also resonated with a lot of our readers: “How many hoops must a returning citizen go through? I quickly found myself in a weird loop of administrative nonsense. I nearly took up smoking again.”

Here are the rest of the top 10 most read articles in 2019:

6. We thought everything was better in Australia, but we’ve fallen for Ireland again

7. ‘Ireland will not welcome you back. Talk of jobs is fake news’: Emigrant teachers have their say

8. No ordinary Joe: The story of forgotten Irish emigrant Joseph Tuohy

9. The more the British learn about Ireland’s loyalists, the less they like

10. ‘When you move back to Ireland, you don’t return to the life you left’

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