Getting ready to go: six people emigrating this year

Six soon to be emigrants share their plans and reasons for leaving

Adrian Gallagher (35), a carpenter from Co Sligo, said goodbye to his wife Emer and sons Luke (10) and Cian (6) this week to fly to Alberta, Canada. Video: Kathleen Harris


There may be signs that the economy is improving, but many people feel that career and lifestyle opportunities are better abroad. This year The Irish Times will follow a group of emigrants as they go through the process of leaving here for a new life overseas.

We will chart their progress in the newspaper and on as they prepare to go, say their goodbyes, settle into their new homes and go about making a new life for themselves elsewhere.

ADRIAN GALLAGHER (35), a carpenter from Co Sligo, said goodbye to his wife Emer and sons Luke (10) and Cian (6) this week to fly to Alberta, Canada

I finished building my house in December 2008. The bottom had fallen out of the construction industry and I was sitting in my new home with no job. I have been out of work for about three months of every year since. I am still a carpenter, but I also paint, or build a wall, or dig a hole. I have a big mortgage and it is hard to make ends meet. Shifts in the Velvet Rooms nightclub kept my van on the road.

Three years ago I was on a start-your-own-business course. In the same hotel, Visa First was running a seminar, and I left my details. Last November they phoned to ask if I’d be interested in Canada. They had a vacancy that would suit a family man like me.

By the time this is printed I will be in Canada. I will see how I get on before deciding how long to stay. The job is as a finishing carpenter with a stone home builder in Grand Prairie. I’m looking forward to learning more about my trade.

There’s loads to do there, with ice rinks and good healthcare and schools. It seems to have it all. I don’t really know what to expect, though. I’ll be in for a shock with the cold weather. I am going with another man from Cork, so I have a comrade. His family is following him in a few months.

Luke is a bit reserved about me going, but Cian is excited about the snow. It will be a challenge for them, but kids are resilient. I hope mine are.

I am seeing it as a challenge, a way out of the financial mess, a way to save a few thousand to have in the bank for unforeseen events. It is a lot to leave behind: my wife, kids, house and the life I’ve built up. But Skype and Facebook bring everyone closer. I am hoping it will be worth a try.

CLAIRE MACKIN (36) and SEAN FITZGERALD (31), with their five-month-old, Isabella, are applying for permanent residency in Australia. He is an electrician and she teaches English

Sean: I became unemployed in 2012. Friends in Australia said I’d have no problem getting work there, so I went over to Perth and got a job straight away.
Claire: We were there for nine months and loved it. We wanted to start a family, and when I got pregnant I moved home to Dundalk for the family support, and Sean followed a month before the baby was born. It was always our intention to go back, as we loved the lifestyle. There are more opportunities work-wise, and the weather is great. The atmosphere is much more positive.
Sean: We don’t feel we are being forced to go. Emigrating is a lifestyle choice for our family. We want Isabella to have an outdoorsy childhood. We know a lot of Irish there who can’t speak highly enough of the education system and the activities for young kids.
Claire: Our families are trying not to think about us leaving, but they know it’s what we want and are very supportive. With Skype it’s easy to keep in touch. We’ll be earning more, which will make flying more affordable. It is not like 20 years ago, where people went to America and never came home.
Sean: I’ve got my trade recognition papers for Australia and have good connections with employers. I’ll fly out to find a place to live when our visas come through before Claire follows with Isabella.
Claire: It will be tough leaving our families and friends. There are mother-and-baby groups in Brisbane, and I’m hoping to gain a new support network. It will be a challenge, but we’re looking forward to it.

SARAH DORAN (23) graduated with a degree in speech and language therapy from Trinity College last year. She is moving to Berkshire next month

On my first day of college, the head of the department told us what we were hearing about the lack of jobs for speech therapists was true, but we shouldn’t lose hope. I’m glad I knew from the start that my job prospects would be limited.

I began to apply for jobs in the UK in November and had an interview with the NHS in Berkshire. I was offered a permanent job working with children with speech, language and communication needs in early-intervention services and mainstream schools. I start as soon as my police check has been processed.

Apart from college summers abroad, I have lived with my parents in Rathfarnham my whole life. I’m going to have to get used to working full-time, in a new country, living on my own, all at the same time.

I will be leaving behind friends, family and my boyfriend. But I know I can’t let my skills go to waste. It is so frustrating to hear of people fighting for healthcare services while hundreds of qualified graduates are drawing the dole.

BRIAN SHEEHY (27), from Baltimore in west Cork, is quitting his job in insurance in Dublin to move to Toronto

I am emigrating to Canada to challenge myself. I want to see how I cope in a foreign country without any support network. I want the challenge of finding a new job, a new house and new friends.

A lot of people I grew up with have emigrated to find work. Visiting them in Canada and Australia, and watching their lives online over the years has made me jealous. I was focused on my career after college, but recently my desire to travel has grown. It is now or never: when I’m 30 I might have a family or a house tying me here.

I was really lucky to get one of the two-year working holiday visas for Canada last January before the quota for the year sold out. I’m leaving in March, to be there for St Patrick’s Day. Through Facebook I’ve got to know other Irish people going over and we’ve arranged to meet up. I’ve booked a hotel for the first few nights, before I move to a hostel, where I’ll stay while looking for a place to live and a job.

I’m not worried about leaving my friends behind, we’ll always keep in touch, but I’m upset to be leaving my family. I’m sad too to be leaving my job. I’ve got on well there and made good friends. I don’t know Toronto so I have no idea how it will work out – I could still be there in five years or I could be back in six months.

JO GIBNEY (28) lost her job with a publishing company in Waterford four months ago. She is moving to Sydney on a working holiday visa

I studied English and sociology in UCC, but since I graduated I have been mostly working in the service industry. Last year I got an editorial job with a publishing company in Waterford, but they weren’t able to keep me on permanently. Losing my job knocked my confidence very hard.

It feels like there is nobody left here. I have a lot of friends in Australia. Some just did the working-holiday thing and came back after two years, but others have settled and are making a good life for themselves. I’ve signed up for Sydney job alerts, but I can’t apply until I arrive.

I will be limited to working with a company for just six months because of my visa, but I’m hoping to get residency and stay a few years at least. I worry that things have slowed down in the Australian economy. But moving there still feels right.

SARAH THARAKAN (31) is moving to San Francisco with her husband, Nithin (29). She has a background in the charity sector

My husband and I aren’t being pushed out the door, more dragged out by a sense of adventure. Even with the economy apparently on the mend, Ireland is still a small island and there might be better professional opportunities for us someplace else.

My mother is American, I’m a dual citizen, my husband’s an Indian-born Irish citizen and his parents have yet another nationality. Emigration and immigration are in our blood.

We are waiting on my husband’s green card to come through, applied for on the back of my American citizenship. This makes living and working in another country a more straightforward prospect than what many others have to face. It goes beyond an attachment to people or place; I realise my luck in having two “good” passports, yet they are nothing more than an accident of birth. Home, and belonging, are fluid for me.

He has a job lined up there, in the headquarters of the company he works for in Dublin. We’re in San Francisco for a couple of weeks now, he for work, I on a kind of reconnaissance mission to get a feel for the place before moving here. I’m leaving by choice, but still experience moments where I question the madness that has inspired me to abandon all I know, for better or worse, in Ireland.

I don’t know how long we’re going to be away. I don’t know if San Francisco is just the first stop. I do not know where I will call home in ten years’ time. I think maybe that’s the whole point.

Online Generation Emigration is the Irish Times blog by and for citizens abroad.;; Twitter @GenEmigration

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