THE exodus of Irish workers intensified in the last year with almost 70,000 people moving to the 'big six' traditional emigrant destinations.
An investigation by the Irish Independent has found a 50pc surge in the number of emigrants heading for Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Britain, the US and Germany -- up from 46,000 when we carried out a similar survey a year ago.
The numbers emigrating to Britain alone soared by 56pc as over 16,000 people travelled across the Irish Sea to find work in the UK 2010/11 tax year.
That's nearly twice as many as were making this journey 10 years ago.
Figures obtained from the UK Department of Work and Pensions show the flow continued throughout 2011 with over 300 Irish people a week applying for national insurance numbers to allow them work there, the vast majority of whom were aged 18 to 34.
That department noted this surge was because "the Irish economy has recently experienced one of the sharpest recessions in the eurozone".
Australian immigration figures also reveal a 15pc surge in the numbers travelling down under to work, with 27,995 new Irish arrivals in their 2010 to 2011 tax year.
Although the large majority of those were on temporary working visas, over 3,000 Irish citizens took the final plunge to become permanent residents of Australia during 2011, nearly half of whom were new arrivals in the country.
New Zealand also proved increasingly attractive, with 4,586 Irish emigrants obtaining work permits to move there during the 2010/11 tax year, three times more than a decade ago.
The trend continued in the second half of the year as over 2,100 Irish people received work visas to New Zealand between July and December 2011.
The booming Canadian economy also proved a strong lure, with almost 4,000 Irish people acquiring permits to work there in the first six months of 2011 according to their latest Citizenship and Immigration statistics.
During 2010 some 4,461 Irish citizens moved to Canada to work, up 34pc on 2009, while another 744 people from Ireland got permanent residency there, up from 503 the year before.
The United States attracted 14,288 workers from Ireland during 2010, up 7pc on the previous year.
Again most were on temporary work permits, although some 1,500 Irish people became permanent US residents in the year, a fifth of whom were new arrivals in the country.
However, the weaker US economy and tighter restrictions have contributed to a general fall in Irish emigration in the last five years -- although this could change if new temporary visa proposals are successful.
Unpublished German government statistics show that 1,426 Irish people emigrated to Germany in 2010, up 16pc on the previous year.
While many people are emigrating for greater opportunities abroad, some of those leaving do so in crisis situations such as debt or domestic violence, and the difficulty is reaching them before they wind up on the streets in London or other big cities, warned Crosscare, a Catholic charity which provides advice and support for emigrants.
Crosscare has worked with Citizens Advice centres this year to try and reach out to migrants.
Emigration is a huge threat to the social fabric of the western seaboard as the loss of so many young people is making it difficult for small GAA clubs in the western seaboard to field teams, warned new Kerry GAA county secretary Patrick O'Sullivan.
Mr O'Sullivan said he wants the GAA to change the rules to permit players who emigrate to come back to play in local club matches.
"It's about keeping clubs alive, but it's also about keeping communities alive.
"We should be encouraging people who are over in London or wherever to be coming back at weekends, playing matches and spending their money locally, it would be of great benefit for everyone," he said.
GAA spokesman Alan Milton said that urban areas were also being badly hit, as seen by the number of transfer sanctions sought by emigrants.
GAA clubs abroad are thriving, however, as many emigrants are flocking there for the social circle it provides even if they've never played before.
The scale of recent emigration was shown by the fact that there was now even a GAA club in Mongolia, Mr Milton said.