Tearful scenes in Dublin Airport as emigrants bid farewell

Busy post-Christmas departure schedule for festive holiday-makers begins

George and Liz Pedlow from Rathfarnham , wave goodbye to their son Steven and his partner Abbey, at Dublin Airport as they return to Toronto having spent Christmas in Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times George and Liz Pedlow from Rathfarnham , wave goodbye to their son Steven and his partner Abbey, at Dublin Airport as they return to Toronto having spent Christmas in Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

Families from around the country are already crowding into Dublin airport to bid farewell to loved ones, ahead of the expected New Year exodus in the coming days.

Official estimates from Dublin Airport Authority predict that Friday, January 2nd, will be the busiest day of the post-Christmas season. But there was already plenty of emotion on show in the Terminal 2 departure lounge as emigrants and their families commenced the march through the gates, away from friends and family, from home.

A resident of Madrid for the last nine years, Martin Whelan revelled in the opportunity to see his parents for a short while before returning to life in his adoptive country. "My partner came over to Ireland first, then we decided to move over to Spain together," says Martin, frantically corralling his young children towards customs clearance.

Ella (3) and Katey (5) Zwan , with their grandmother Anne Killian, Ratoath, Co Meath, before boarding a flight to Holland having spent Christmas in Ireland. Photograph: Eric Luke / The Irish Times

“It’s lovely here, especially at Christmas time. That’s when you notice it more than ever - that kind of Christmas feeling, and getting to catch up with people you haven’t seen in quite some time,” he says.

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Sombre atmosphere

Just a few feet away, there is a more sombre atmosphere as Jim and Mena Byrne wave goodbye to grandchildren Naomi and Joe.

It may be 20 years since their dad Conor emigrated to Oxford, but the frequent partings don’t get any easier. “We’ve been here for five days,” he says. “It was lovely. It was generally family time, seeing all the other grandchildren, nieces and nephews... As you can see, they’re upset about leaving.”

“We don’t see them often enough though,” interrupts his mother, Mena, as she savours a final, tearful embrace with the grandchildren.

Originally from Ratoath, Co Meath, Tríona Killian has been calling the Netherlands home for the last six years.

Final send-off

“We moved over in 2008, but I have a Dutch partner, so that was part of the reason why I moved; it wasn’t really because of the recession. But that’s probably the reason I can’t come back,” she says, directing her young daughters Katey and Ella away from brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and parents assembled for the final send-off.

“It’s great to see everybody and catch up ... The kids have their life over there now, so we’re happy to stay in Holland.”

Straining over the security barriers to catch a last glimpse of their son Steven and his Toronto-native partner, Liz and George Pedlow always find departure time to be a trying time. "He loves it over there, and he loves to come back here. He's enjoying his work and the accommodation. It's a nice lifestyle over there, unfortunately," says mother Liz.

“He would say that it’s a better lifestyle over there than it is here, and he would not get employment here in anything similar to what he’s got out there,” adds dad George.

“He’s out there three years. That’s one of the reasons, at this point in time, why he’d never come back.”