Wednesday 16 August 2017

'We've to move to Abu Dhabi to save for a house in Dublin'

Teachers Willie Crawford and Diane Bergin are set to pack their bags for jobs in the UAE. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Teachers Willie Crawford and Diane Bergin are set to pack their bags for jobs in the UAE. Photo: Caroline Quinn
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

They're young, they're teachers and they want to buy a house in Dublin - but they have to leave Ireland do it.

Willie Crawford and Diane Bergin are badly needed in Irish classrooms, where there is a growing problem of teacher shortages, at both primary and post-primary level.

But the couple, whose salaries are in the region of €36,000-€39,000, feel they have no option but to pack their bags.

They are heading to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE), in September, lured by two-year contracts with tax-free salaries of about €40,000, a two-month bonus at the end and free accommodation and health insurance.

Read more: Prices must fall - but dream of owning a home is still achievable, insists Coveney

The difference it will make to Mr Crawford's pocket tells the story: instead of a monthly take-home pay of about €2,200, from which he shells out €400 rent, he will have about €3,400 and no accommodation costs. Ms Bergin will enjoy a broadly similar boost to her income.

While travel and adventure are among the attractions of working abroad, it was the search for their own house - and what that would cost - that ultimately drove their decision.

"We have been thinking of settling down," said Mr Crawford (27), of Abbeylara, Co Longford, who, despite a permanent job in St Patrick's Boys' National School, Donabate, Co Dublin, says that, between rent and running a car, there isn't enough left from his pay packet to save for a house.

Ms Bergin (26), of Navan Road, Dublin, and a teacher of chemistry and maths in Firhouse Community College, Dublin, was dismayed a couple of years ago when they started looking at the housing market.

"When we went to check out a mortgage, the most we would get was €250,000, and all we would get for that was a one-bedroomed apartment, which we didn't want," she said.

Read more: 'Only people on high incomes can afford to buy a home' - Central Bank Governor

Prices have gone up since then, and even with the new supports for first-time buyers, a purchaser would need a minimum €18,000 in savings for a €300,000 house.

Ms Bergin cannot predict what the housing market will be like when they return, "but if we have a good bit saved, we are hoping we will be OK."

The couple landed the contracts through an Irish company, Teach and Explore, a director of which, Garrett O'Dowd, said that this year, to date, it has secured contracts for 135 Irish teachers in the UAE, while it also deals with Dubai, Hong Kong, China and, a new addition for 2017, Barbados.

Their loss will be keenly felt in Ireland's education system, with chemistry and maths two of the subjects suffering critical shortage at second level, while primary schools reported serious difficulties this year finding substitutes to cover temporary absences. The teacher shortage is on the agenda of the annual conference of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation (INTO) this week, where it will consider a ballot on industrial action if no move is made on establishing regional panels of substitute teachers to ensure a guarantee of supply to schools.

Irish Independent

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