independent

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Emigration a New Year's reality for many

FR BRIAN WHELAN

Published 01/01/2013 | 11:22

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AS USUAL around this time we look back and we look forward – back at the year that has been and forward to the new year that's about to unfold. What will this New Year bring? Understandably there's a lot of trepidation and worry among people for the year ahead, with the enduring economic crisis and the severe the budgets emanating from Leinster House.

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Just when we think things cant possibly get any worse, we then realize that the year of the 'unlucky 13' is upon us and we begin to think that this year can't go by fast enough! Even the motor industry has acknowledged that and successfully lobbied the government to change the system for car number plates so that people won't be put off buying new cars.

Superstitions like that will always be part and parcel of our culture I suppose. Christmas shopping was strange this year – according to news reports, there seemed to be just as much spending being done as ever before, despite the fact that people have less money than before? It seems an odd phenomenon.

Christmas is a great time to catch up with friends and relatives. I was delighted to catch up with one such friend that I hadn't seen since before the Summer. This guy was a friend from my college days, we played hurling together in college and became good friends. I officiated at his wedding a couple of years ago and he has a child at this stage now too.

He was telling me that himself and his wife are expecting their second child in June so they're very excited about that – indeed the 'expectant dad' is every bit as full of the joyful anticipation and excitement as mum is.

Everything seems so wonderful, and it is, but it's a happy story that's also tinged with angst. A few months ago my friend was forced to emigrate to Australia to find work. He had been through college, got himself a good degree in engineering and even got himself a masters afterwards. He found a good job but no sooner had he got it, than it was gone in the ' bust'. He'd married, he'd naturally bought a house, but now he couldn't afford the mortgage.

His only option was to emigrate, leaving his wife and child behind, so that he could provide for his family. He arrived home on Christmas eve, and heads back out to Australia on January 2. His expectant wife and his child will again remain here in Ireland, and he plans on coming home in June for the birth of their second child.

This a reality that many others are living with too. We don't think about the possibility of such a horrible way for a young newly married couple to have to live, until we hear about it or see it first hand.

IN 2013 I hope that our country turn around again. I really hope that the government has plan, and not just a sound-bite, to get people working again. It seems at the moment that their plan is that people, like my friend and countless others, will simply emigrate.

Is it just a relief for the state-finances that another potential dole recipient is not a burden on the state if they leave the country? Maybe they're just happy that people are emigrating because the result is that the number on the ' live register' is falling, and unemployment figures are down.

The true reality of the situation is that there are thousands of Irish abroad who are still our unemployed, who don't feature on the statistics. But these are our relatives, our neighbors, our friends, who are real people not statistics.

These are honest people who want to just get on with their lives and provide for their families. 2012 hasn't been very kind to them, let's hope that in 2013 we might see better times.

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