Best of 2015: The most-read articles on Generation Emigration
Returning to Ireland and the marriage equality referendum are the big stories of the year
Maura McElhone’s piece about moving back to Ireland from San Francisco was the most-read article on Generation Emigration this year. ‘I’m enjoying feeling part of this place and it of me. And I am grateful for the opportunity Ireland has given me to start over.’
2015 would be “the year of the returnees” wrote Alan Hilliard in March, and he was right. While the number of people who made the move home this year remained low, interest in coming back has rocketed, and the Generation Emigration section is receiving more and more stories and inquiries from readers who are thinking about moving back, or have already done so in the past few months. Stories about returning to Ireland are consistently well-read online, which is reflected in the list of top 20 articles for 2015, which features eight about moving home. These are all included in the Returning to Ireland online guide, which we published in May.
The collapse of the balcony in Berkeley, California which tragically claimed the lives of six young Irish students was one of the biggest stories of 2015, which left Ireland and the Irish community in California in shock. Simon Carswell's report after the incident was the most-read article on irishtimes.com overall this year.
One of the other major stories of the year was the passing of the marriage equality referendum, and the Irish abroad played a huge part. The #HomeToVote movement saw recent emigrants flock home to cast their ballot, which also served to highlight an intensifying campaign for voting rights for overseas citizens, while on Generation Emigration we shared stories from several Irish people living abroad about what the referendum meant to them, a few of whom had left Ireland because they hadn’t felt accepted.
Interestingly, 17 of the top 20 most-read articles contained the word “Ireland” in the headline.
Just before leaving San Francisco in 2014, Maura McElhone wrote for Generation Emigration about her decision to move back to Ireland after almost a decade away. In this follow-up article, she reflects on the ups and downs of her first 12 months at home. “Free from the weight of homesickness and those feelings of impermanence and detachment, there’s a calmness in my life now. Whether I’m running on Portstewart Strand, making the short commute from Rathgar into town, or stretching out a Sunday morning in Maynooth over coffee and the papers, I feel a sense of peace that I struggled to find during my time in the US.”
In March, Generation Emigration ran a competition asking readers to nominate their favourite Irish pubs around the world. This shortlist of the top 10 pubs, including the Auld Shillelagh in London, Bubbles O’Leary in Kampala, and the Wild Rover in Cusco, continues to be well-read online.
Readers love a good infographic, and this article to go with one on the cost of living based on data provided by 200,000 people around the world was a surprisingly popular read. Can you guess where Ireland ranks?
This piece by Niamh Mulvey about the mixed emotions associated with emigrating, identity and belonging provoked a very strong reaction on social media and in the comments section, with readers fairly evenly split between those who identified with her feelings about being an emigrant (“too grandiose a term for a white girl who works in a shiny office in central London and can afford to go home several times a year”), and others who were dismayed by what they perceived as her lack of regard for where she came from. How many of them read to the end of the article to find out what her true feelings towards Ireland were, we wonder?
In an article launching the Generation Emigration best Irish pub in the world competition, Irish Times journalists living abroad wrote about their favourite Irish boozers where they live, and what makes them special.
“Emigration can be an incredible and life changing experience but it is not a silver bullet for all your problems, especially when you consider that your biggest problem is in all likelihood yourself and no matter how far you go, or for how long, that’s the one thing you can’t leave behind,” wrote Martin Hearty, in this honest account of moving to Canada, admitting it hasn’t worked out, and deciding to move home again. The story was published as part of the ‘Ireland and Me’ series, after we invited readers abroad to submit reflections on their relationship with the country they left. The pieces are collected in an 'Ireland and Me' eBook.
Another popular story from the ‘Ireland and Me’ series. After 26 years of “a good life, filled with sun and sea and more possessions than I could ever need” in Orange County, Mark Czerwin is ready for a change. Should he sell up and move back to Ireland to look after his ageing mother, or buy a yacht and cruise the world?
Lucy Michael thought she was well prepared to move home to Ireland, and after regular visits over the 12 years she was away, she thought she would “slip easily into Dublin life”. She was wrong. “Nothing felt normal. The exhilaration of the move home had dissipated, the pressures of a new job and a long commute were isolating, and I had started to feel the absence of everything I had left behind. I worried.”
In the run up to and after the marriage equality referendum in May, we shared stories from gay Irish people living abroad about what the referendum meant to them. Several wrote about how their sexuality, and how constrained they felt in Ireland because of it, was the reason why they emigrated. This piece by 27-year-old David Hoctor, written just a week after he came out to his parents, resonated with a lot of readers who identified especially with the sentence “I needed to leave Ireland to come out”.
As Lucy Michael wrote in her piece which featured further up this list, many people assume that returning home to Ireland will be easy. But settling back can be much more challenging than they expect, writes Fr Alan Hilliard in this article, in which he compares the experience of moving home to grief. “A person may not realise how much they have changed until they come back. When they return they see, hear, sense and feel things differently,” he writes. “It is only then they begin to see how they have changed; this experience can be quite startling in itself.”