'You can't keep Dublin people down'


GENERATION EMIGRATION:A van was burnt out right outside our door and we were evacuated from the building. I wanted out

WHEN I ANNOUNCED my plans to emigrate from Birmingham I wasn’t surprised at the enthusiasm of friends and family. They imagined a life spent in sunnier climes, somewhere like Australia or Canada, where I could also look forward to job security. You can imagine their reaction, then, when I told them I was moving to Dublin.

I first left Birmingham in 2008. I wanted a change, and when I boarded the plane to Australia I thought that was where I would settle for the foreseeable future. I was there for just a week when I met a man from north Dublin, and we spent 12 months happily backpacking and working around Australia together.

By the end of the year, I knew Australia was not where I wanted to stay in the long term. At that time, in late 2009, we were hearing reports in the Australian media that the Irish economy was experiencing problems on an unprecedented scale. Moving to Dublin didn’t seem like a viable option, so we decided to go back to Birmingham together.

My boyfriend saw the move as a continuation of his travels at first. We set up our own business and tried to make a life for ourselves there, but our hearts weren’t in it. The level of crime was high, unemployment was rising, and there was an underlying tension in the city that was palpable.

Our desire to move home became stronger as time went on. We talked about moving to Dubai or Berlin, as we had friends in those places, but Dublin was always in our minds.

We used to come to Dublin for the weekend every now and again, and people my boyfriend knew would stop him on the street and tell him not to come back, that there would be no work here for us. They would list all the people they knew who had recently lost their jobs, and we would look at each other, thinking that if things were that bad we would have to stay in the UK.

The riots last summer marked a turning point for us. Our office was in Birmingham city centre. A a van was burnt out right outside our door and we were evacuated from the building. I wanted out.

We were worried about moving to Ireland, when so many Irish people our age were leaving in search of work abroad. We knew we were taking a gamble, but as we looked at the quality of our life in Birmingham, the move was one we felt compelled to make. We had to take the leap.

Even while crossing the Irish Sea on the ferry last October, I was plagued with second thoughts, but within a week of landing here, I knew we had made the right choice. I hadn’t really understood the attraction of Dublin before, but now that I’m here I wish we hadn’t waited so long to come back.

Within two weeks of arriving, we were both employed. I joined a recruitment agency when I landed and they found me a good office job almost straight away. After a few months we were able to move out of my boyfriend’s parents’ house into our own place in Clontarf. I have made a whole new circle of friends, and I feel really settled now.

The way the Irish people maintain their positivity is a credit to them. Recently on the radio I heard that Irish people are among the happiest in the world, which instantly struck a chord with me. You can’t keep Dublin people down, and that optimism is one of the things I love most about Dublin.

The beautiful beaches, rolling mountains, and a harbour town with its curious seals are some of the reasons why I’ll be staying in Dublin, but it is the people that make the city such a fantastic place to live. I have found them to be open, friendly, honest, funny, upbeat and laid-back. Almost every day I am taken aback by the sheer warmth of the people I meet, despite the trials of recent years. The inclusiveness I’ve experienced here is incomparable to anywhere else I’ve been.

In the short term, I think many of the people who are leaving Ireland are doing the right thing. Travel is an education in itself, and there are fantastic opportunities abroad for people that just aren’t available here for the time being. But it is sad that so many have to go against their will. It is easy for me to come to this country and say that I have had a great experience, but I do understand the difficult situations that other people are in, and the tough decisions that come with emigrating, leaving friends and family behind.

Perhaps the most important thing Ireland has taught me in these delicately balanced economic times, is appreciation for the truly important things in life: family, friends, and, of course, having the craic. I can honestly say I am happier here now than I have ever been in my life.

- In conversation with CIARA KENNY

Share your views and experiences with Generation Emigration, The Irish Times
forum by and for Irish citizens abroad, curated by CIARA KENNY