Why should the Government ‘do more’ to help returning emigrants?
Opinion: My wife and I didn’t expect anything when we decided to move home from Australia
‘What are those needs of a returning emigrant that are particularly special or specific that don’t apply to the broader population?’
Groups representing emigrants, such as the National Youth Council of Ireland and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, have identified “barriers” preventing emigrants from moving home, such as high rents, the cost of car insurance, and difficulty accessing certain social welfare payments. Business groups have suggested special financial incentives, such as tax breaks. But is it the Government's role to help emigrants to return? Recently returned emigrant James Parnell says returnees shouldn't bank on it.
It’s a difficult one. There are multiple viewpoints and different types of emigrants; those who feel they had to leave Ireland to survive during the recession and have been waiting for an opportunity to return could have very different needs to others - myself included - who chose to move abroad, and were fortunate enough to be able to choose to come back too.
Myself and my wife never expected anything from the Government when we decided to move home from Australia last year. We just didn’t consider checking out what they could do for us. We used the citizens information website for research. But it was only when we returned that we realised there were multiple support groups and websites.
Should the Government be doing more to help emigrants to return?
Government should - first and foremost - help the neediest in our society. Returning emigrants are one voice among many competing for Government support. Would most Irish emigrants count themselves among the neediest?
What are those needs of a returning emigrant that are particularly special or specific that don’t apply to the broader population? Certainly, there is social readjustment. There are also some practical issues which are specific to returnees, for example, a clean overseas driving record not being recognised by all insurers. But most major needs - jobs, decent housing, reasonable insurance costs among them - are common to all.
I’d expect the Government to implement initiatives that benefit all citizens. This includes jobs, decent accommodation, healthcare and education as rights not commodities, and the general costs of living such as car insurance. Any good Government will also naturally encourage inward talent and investment.
One thing is universally true wherever you go; the people of a country are rarely satisfied with their politicians. We have a bunch of gombeens, and Australia a shower of galahs. While I don’t know enough about politics to debate their respective merits, and I do believe that we should demand more of our representatives, it’s clear we cannot always expect it. We cannot assume and live as if they will always deliver.
Sometimes, those most outraged are the ones least proactive in helping themselves. I’m not talking about those who can’t help themselves (the needy), just those who won’t. If a government doesn’t provide what it should, then we must demand it, but we also must do whatever we can ourselves.
I do agree that straightforward obstacles for emigrants like recognition of driving licences should be rectified by Government, and that promises that have been made to emigrants should be kept. To returning emigrants expecting more, I would say keep demanding, but plan around it.
James Parnell moved home from Australia last year with his family after 16 years in Sydney, and is writing a series for Irish Times Abroad about his experience. He is the founder of TheWellBeingGym which provides corporate performance training to businesses, and personal life design coaching to individuals. He blogs at james-parnell.com.