‘There’s nothing like being at home for Christmas’

Around 660,000 passengers expected to pass through Dublin Airport over festive season

Gerard Corbett, arriving home from Saudi Arabia for Christmas, is meet by his children Ellen (20), Faye (17) and Dominic (15) at Dublin Airport early this morning. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill / The Irish Times

A strong tailwind took the transatlantic flights bringing Irish emigrants home for Christmas into Dublin Airport almost an hour early this morning, but a delay on the runway made for an agonising wait for them and for their families anxiously standing by beneath twinkling lights in the arrivals hall.

"We were sitting on the plane on the tarmac for half an hour, and I was dying to get off and see them all," said Gerard Corbett, who was met by his tearful but grinning children Ellen (20), Faye (17) and Dominic (15), and wife Catherine.

Gerard has for the past four years been commuting back and forth between his home in Clonmel and Saudi Arabia, where he works as a commercial manager for an oil company.

“I am very fortunate in that I get home three or four times a year, but Christmas is the most important one. There are a lot of guys working out there who don’t get home.”


The family had a five-year plan when Gerard first left. “It has been four years now and there’s no sign he’ll be able to come home yet,” Catherine says. “Even though things seem to be picking up here, it will be a while I think. Christmas is always a special time, so we’re really looking forward to it.”

Geraldine Enright from Tyrrelstown in Dublin hung over the barrier right next to the arrivals door, craning her head each time it slid open to see if her son Wayne, who is 27 and has been living in Sydney for two years, would be the next to emerge.

“He was on the phone there saying he’d landed but was stuck on the runway, but I can’t wait to see him come through,” she said excitedly.

“He works for a bank over there and is doing really well. He says he’ll never come back. Even though he’s just 27 he is still my baby and we miss him a lot, but when things are going so well for him over there, why wouldn’t he stay?”

Seamus Moran and his daughter Cathy (26) will spend the day going back and forth to the airport collecting three groups of family members, who are bound for Kiltimagh in Co Mayo for a Moran family reunion this Friday.

“My brother is coming from Denver this morning with his wife, and his kids will be arriving later this afternoon. My son and his girlfriend will also be coming in from Brisbane. He’s been there three years now,” Seamus says.

Other family members will be travelling from Costa Rica, California, Texas, Germany, London, Southampton and around Ireland for the occasion, clocking up more than 80,000 miles between them.

“In my family there were 27 grandchildren, and 25 of them will be there, with their families. There will be 49 in total coming from all over the world. It is something we’ve been meaning to do for years, and we organised it this year as part of the Gathering. It is the first time we will have all been together since we were kids, so it will be a big day.”

Joan McCann and her husband Alan were waiting with their two sons to collect her sister Lucy O'Reilly (31), who has just qualified as a solicitor in Melbourne. "She's been away for a year and a half, and we're bringing her down to Cavan today to surprise our mum who doesn't know she's coming back. She'll be shocked to see her. Hopefully she won't have a heart attack!" she says.

“My mother wants her to come home but she’s going out with an Australian guy and his family want them to stay over there.”

When Lucy came through and spotted their faces among the crowd, she reached straight for her 11-month-old nephew Noah, who she was meeting for the first time.

“Isn’t he absolutely gorgeous?” she crooned, fighting back the tears through her smiles. “It’s just fantastic to see them all. I hadn’t met this little fella, and Cillian just had his first birthday when I left. I can’t believe how big he has grown.”

She wasn't the only one meeting a new family member for the first time this morning. Marguerite and Tim Guidera had arms outstretched for their 7-month-old granddaughter Emily, who arrived from Boston with her dad Patrick, his American wife Rachel, and their three-year-old Mary. Although Emily had never met her grandparents before, she was full of smiles for them.

“We have seen her a lot on Skype,” Marguerite says, “where would we be without Skype?”

Lorna Carton (31) ran to her two sisters after spotting them in the crowd under a giant homemade "Welcome Home" banner. Also arriving from Boston, where she has lived for 10 years, she hadn't seen Fiona (25) since last Christmas and her other sister Elaine (28), who lives in New Zealand, in two and a half years.

“It was the best welcome I have ever gotten. It will be a big reunion this week. There’s nothing like being at home for Christmas.”

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine