Top ‘Abroad’ stories this year mostly negative about Ireland
Most-read stories were about feeling forced to leave, or dreading coming home
Stories about returning to Ireland are perenially popular in the Irish Times Abroad section.
But looking back on the most-read stories this year, another theme jumps out: negativity about Ireland.
Four of the top five stories are about the reasons emigrants felt “forced” to leave, or feel they can’t come back here to live.
“I’ve lived in London for three years. I hadn’t spent much time in Britain before my arrival and had no particular feelings toward the English. I expected them to react to me with similar neutrality. What I didn’t expect was the toxic mix of dismissal and casual disdain. It would have been easier, perhaps, if it was all as overt as potato jokes. But what kills you is the ignorance; what grinds you down is how much they don’t know about the past and, if they do know, how little they care,” wrote Megan Nolan, 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 living in Britain agreeing with her observations and experiences, and others disagreeing completely.
We often share stories of the difficulties of returning to live in Ireland, but Kevin Wall’s stands out. Returning with 17 construction qualifications and licences from Australia, he was eager to work again in Ireland. But not one of them was recognised. After five months on the dole, because employers couldn’t take him on without Irish licences, he moved back to Sydney in February.
What’s “stuck in your craw” about Ireland? That’s the question an Irish arts festival in Berlin, supported by Irish Times Abroad, was exploring this summer. In an article for us, festival co-founder Dee Mulrooney explains her reasons for moving to the city: “We felt Ireland forced us out, we felt betrayed. I worked as a teacher for 20 years, my husband a carpenter, but we struggled to find somewhere to live. To survive we had to leave.”
Elaine Doyle’s spectacularly positive article listing her five favourite things about living back in Ireland after moving home from Australia was one of the most-read in the Abroad section for 2017. But months after its publication, reality kicked in and she wrote a searingly honest account of the struggles she has faced, both practically - with things like finding a job, place to live, insurance - and emotionally since her return.
The unbearable strain of being at the frontline of our broken health system is a major reason for emigrating cited by many of our doctors who move to Australia every year. They say that while the Australian health service is not perfect, the fact that it is better staffed and better resourced means they can focus their time and energy on treating patients and progressing their careers. Dr Niamh Humphries of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland travelled out to Australia to hear their views.