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Emigration highest since the 19th Century at 3,000 a month

THE tumultuous after-effects of the Celtic Tiger's demise are graphically highlighted with new figures which show that people are fleeing the country in record numbers while the number of people moving here has also increased.

While many of those who are returning are Irish people who have worked abroad in countries such as Australia, where one-year visas are common, Europeans are also continuing to move here despite the economy's collapse.

Moving in the other direction is a growing stream of Irish people in search of a new life. That will create new social and political problems for a government that has, until now, been content to preside over the departure of foreigners in the hope that unemployment will fall.

The figures from the CSO showed that more than 3,000 Irish people leave the country each month -- the highest figure since the 19th Century. The number of Irish emigrating has more than doubled in the past two years with an average of 111 now departing every day, the new figures showed.

The vast majority of emigrants are aged between 15 and 44 and most of them are heading to the English-speaking countries of Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

"You'd have to go back to the 1800s to get levels like that," according to the CSO's Deirdre Cullen.

While the number of people fleeing the recession brings emigration to an all-time high, the CSO's statisticians were quick to point out that the population was smaller for most of our history and almost all emigrants would have been Irish. This means that the percentage of the population who are leaving may have been higher in the past.

Those living in Dublin are least likely to move abroad while people from the mid-east are most likely to go, the CSO said. Around 76,000 people left the Republic in the 12 months to April including more than 40,000 Irish nationals. That compares with 27,700 Irish nationals in the previous 12 months.

The CSO calculated that 42,300 moved here in the 12 months to April but almost half of them were Irish returning home. Many of them appear to be coming from countries after visas expired, the CSO said.

A further 8,400 moved to the country from the UK and the rest of the old EU, while 9,000 came from the new accession states. A further 7,900 came from the rest of the world.

The Union of Students in Ireland was quick to condemn the rise in emigration. "Our graduates have two options: leave the country in search of work or join the dole queue," said USI president Gary Redmond.

"Soaring unemployment and emigration is hampering any hope of realising the Government's ambitions of creating a smart economy in Ireland.

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"Masses of highly skilled graduates are leaving for distant shores, taking with them the future prosperity of this island."

The CSO conceded yesterday that capturing the real extent on the emigration crisis is difficult. The Cork-based statistics office has changed the questions it asks in its household survey in an effort to record the departure of entire families who might otherwise not appear on the CSO's radar.

Declan Clune, who runs Kilkenny-based Visafirst.com, said yesterday that Australia also received in excess of 30,000 Irish people for the 12 months to June 30. "All of these people are of people who have the right to work -- permanent residency, sponsorships and working holiday makers -- not tourists," Mr Clune said. If these figures are correct, they suggest emigration is more common than the CSO's figures suggest.

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