Families get ‘the best Christmas present’ as emigrants arrive home

Tears and hugs fly at Dublin Airport as families and friends reunite

Emotional scenes and many tearful mammies at Dublin Airport as thousands of Irish people returned home for the Christmas holidays. Video: Bryan O'Brien


A thousand sparkly lights glinted above the arrivals door at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport early this morning, but nothing shone as bright as the massive smiles and glistening tears that greeted the thousands of people arriving home to spend Christmas with family and friends in Ireland.

“They’ve a sign up over there saying ‘The best Christmas present is about to walk through these doors’, and that’s the truth,” said Arthur Kee, who travelled from Killybegs in Co Donegal with his wife Frances to collect their son Andrew and his wife Jessica, who flew in this morning from New Orleans.

“He’s been living abroad for over a decade, but it’s a year and a half since he’s been home. It’s a really big thing for our family to have them home for Christmas,” Arthur said. “It’s a great time of year in Killybegs; so many young people come back from abroad.”

Dressed head to toe as a Christmas tree, complete with baubles, tinsel and flashing fairy lights, Belinda Ennis from Howth was determined to stand out from the crowd when her daughter Alex, who works in recruitment in Vancouver, arrived in from Indonesia, where she has been holidaying with two friends.

“We were out there with her in Florida last Christmas and I met her dressed in a full Santa outfit. She walked straight past me, she was so embarrassed. So I thought I’d really get her this year,” she laughed.

“We are going over to Terminal 1 after this to meet my other daughter Taggie, who is coming in from Australia where she has been studying for the past six months. It’ll be really special to have them both here for Christmas.”

Holding a homemade “Welcome Home” banner adorned with fairy lights and big red hearts, Christobelle Feeney jigged with excitement waiting for her childhood best friend Niall O’Connor, who has been working in Australia as a physiotherapist for the past two years. “No one knows he is home except me,” she said. “He’s coming home for good today. I’m here to collect him and bring him home to his parents in Roscommon as their Christmas present. Keeping the secret has almost killed me.”

As the doors slid open and Niall walked through, Christobelle screeched with excitement and ran towards him. “Mam was in tears on Skype when I told her I wasn’t coming home for Christmas,” Niall said, when he recovered his breath after they hugged. “I felt really bad but it’ll be worth it to see the look on her face. I had a return flight booked, it was supposed to be just a holiday. But then I started thinking that it was time for me to move home.”

Niall emigrated because he couldn’t find work in Ireland two years ago, but he now thinks the jobs market has “definitely picked up” here for physiotherapists. He has a new job lined up in Sligo, starting in January.  

“I saw posters up in the baggage hall asking emigrants to move home, and advertisements for nurses in Tallaght Hospital as well. That’s really good to see,” he said. “Things seem to be changing.”

Noel Delahunty from Co Kilkenny, who arrived from Australia with his fiancée Aisling McDonald and her brother Niall, is also thinking about moving home after five years working in construction in Sydney and Darwin. “We’re hoping to move back to Ireland in the next two years,” he said. “If the construction industry kicks into gear again, we’ll be home.”

The trio were welcomed back by Niall and Aisling’s parents Marie and Sean, their sister Michelle and her two kids Jack Óg and Katie, who all travelled up to Dublin this morning from Mooncoin to collect them.

“They are only recently engaged, so it is even more special that they are home this Christmas,” Marie said. “They were back for a funeral in April, but that seems so long ago. It always seems like such a long time. They are so far away.”

Amy Creegan (21), who arrived home last Friday from Dubai where she is working as a teacher, was there with her aunt Josie Crawford to meet her cousin Katie Crawford (22), who is working with horses in Kentucky. “I dropped her to the airport in March, and that was the last time I saw her. It’s the longest we’ve been without each other our whole lives,” she said.

“I’m so excited, the next few days are going to be so jolly. It’s so good to be home… In Dubai there is no build-up to Christmas. So it is just amazing seeing all the lights.”

Dance teacher Rachel Wynne, who has been living in the US for ten years, couldn’t stop hugging her brother Owen when she arrived in from California. “I haven’t seen my little brother in two years,” she said, wiping away the tears. “He has had a baby since I was here last, baby Elle, so I’m going to meet her for the first time today. I’m just so excited.”

It is “an extra special Christmas” for the Wynne family this year, because Owen and his wife and Elle are leaving Ireland in January to move to California. “So this is the last time our parents will have us all here for Christmas for a while,” Rachel said. “My parents told me I absolutely had to come home this year. But I’m delighted to be here.”

The journey from Connecticut was a “nerve-wracking” one for Teresa Curry, who arrived in to Dublin to spend Christmas in Donnybrook with her Irish cousins, who she hasn’t seen in 12 years. “It is my first Christmas outside the States, and my first time travelling alone, which was a whole new adventure for me, because I’m in my elder years,” she laughed. “I was a little anxious but I’m here now, and we’ll have great fun from here on out.”

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