Queuing for a better living: how the dole lines are giving way to departure lounges

 

A surprisingly large number of middle-aged people were among the 4,000 who attended the Working Abroad Expo at the RDS at the weekend

IT WAS taking up to an hour for people in the queue for the Working Abroad Expo at the RDS yesterday to get inside.

Inside the main hall, there were more long queues in front of all the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand stands, and those representing visa agencies.

However, there wasn't a single person at the Backpacker Working Holiday Insurance stand, advertising for business for those people "planning to climb a mountain or laze on a beach".

Those attending on Saturday and Sunday, an estimated 4,000 in total, weren't there to make plans to laze on beaches: they were all there to get information about how to emigrate and work abroad.

The man in a neat black suit queuing for information about Western Australia did not want to give his name. "I'm too embarrassed to give my name," he explained quietly. "I'm 48, I'm an engineer, and I haven't worked for two years. I've tried and tried all over Britain and Ireland to get work. There's nothing.

"The fact I'm over 45 will go against me in trying to get a visa. I'll go anywhere now for a job - the Middle East, Australia, Canada. I've been dipping into my savings, which are slowly dwindling. In another year, I'll be desperate," he said.

"There is no standardised profile of the emigrant any more," Niall Kearney (35) said. "It's no longer the young, single person in their early 20s. It's people with families, people in their 40s and 50s and people like me."

A French and English teacher, Kearney has been out of work for 15 months. He's planning on going to Canada. "I think there's an air of resignation here today. People are neither happy nor sad. They're just getting on with it now. It's strange to look around the hall and think most people here today will ultimately emigrate."

Husband and wife Jacinta Dalton and Mark Hanily, both 32, want to emigrate to "anywhere in Australia". Dalton has a job in banking, but Hanily, a carpenter, hasn't worked for 18 months. "If you're in the building game like me, you're going to remain unemployed in Ireland," he said.

"We want to get out of this bloody country before it falls down around our ears," Dalton said matter-of-factly. "We've friends who have already gone ahead of us to Australia. I know I have a job, but my husband doesn't. By emigrating, both of us will have jobs, a different lifestyle, and a change of scenery."

"We've had an electrical contractors business for 17 years and now it's totally dead. There's no business," said Niamh Pedreshi, who had driven from Leixlip with husband and business partner Daniel. "We want to go to Canada and start again."

Couple Susan Byrne (31), and Spencer Byrne (32) had driven from Wexford to get visa information at the expo. They both have jobs, in the cosmetics industry and as a cabinet-maker respectively, but they want to emigrate to Australia. "We lived in Queensland for 10 months a year ago. We loved it and now we're moving there permanently," Susan explained. "The opportunities are way better."

"I thought I'd be the oldest person here, but I'd say there are lots of people here even older than me," confided a 52-year-old man who had driven from north Kerry.

A bus driver working for Bus Éireann, he didn't want to give his name.

"I'm keeping my cards close to my chest and I don't want them to know I'm leaving. I don't think my job will last, so I'm making my plans before I'm forced to leave." A father of three, one son is emigrating to Australia in a fortnight, with a second likely to follow.

The bus driver, his wife, and their youngest son want to emigrate to New Zealand. "My biggest gripe is that I've been paying taxes since 1977, and done everything above board.

"But I feel if I stay here, and keep on paying my taxes, they'll just be squandered by the Government. Leaving the country is the only way I feel I can make a stand."