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Monday 20 November 2017

Home and away: there can be only one winner

Thousands are coming back to the country, and the number is rising all the time. Niamh Horan talks to one emigrant set to return

With 20,600 Irish people coming home this year alone, according to preliminary figures released from the CSO – and 58,100 over the past three years – the numbers returning with a more positive attitude to their country is rising steadily.

Aislinn O'Toole, 27, from Terenure in Dublin, who recently returned home for a short visit, said she has noticed that the Irish spirit – despite the downturn – is very much alive and well. She says that, for her, all the talk of doom and gloom while she has been away hasn't lived up to reality.

Aislinn moved to Australia in April 2011. She always had it at the back of her mind to travel and once she turned 26, she finally decided to do so. She settled in Sydney, where she's been living for the past 18 months.

She says it depends on who you talk to when it comes to hearing people's opinion in Ireland on how our economy is performing but she says that she was constantly being advised not to return home because of the 'great recession'.

"The warnings were mainly from an older generation, because the reality is that all of my friends are doing okay and no one has lost their job," Aislinn says. "They wouldn't have ties such as children or mortgages, so life hasn't changed that much for them.

"But, it wasn't until I returned to Ireland in recent weeks for a friend's wedding that I was genuinely surprised by the buzz in Dublin – it's not very different to when I left. The nightclubs are sill busy, the restaurants also seem to be doing quite well.

"I think there is a certain group of people who aren't feeling the recession as much as some others – mainly my age group, people with no commitments. Out of my group of friends, nobody is unemployed and therefore they haven't been hit as hard by what's happened.

"They're still going out every weekend and most have been able to manage a holiday every year, too.

"It seems to be a combination of the older generation and fresh graduates who are feeling the pinch the most. For example, my younger sister and her friends found it difficult to step on to the career ladder after graduating, so they moved en masse to New Zealand.

"The other thing I've noticed is how the cost of living here is more reasonable compared with Australia. I know it's all relative – as the minimum wage is the equivalent of about €16 in Australia while it's closer to €9 in Ireland – but I really notice the difference in prices when doing my weekly shop.

"Then there's rent, which is quite expensive in Australia: I pay €300 a week for my room in a two-bed apartment – and that's for a pretty average, unfurnished complex in Bondi Beach.

"I am leaving for Sydney again this weekend but my plan is to move back home before the end of next year. I am not overly worried about getting a job because there seems to be plenty of opportunities in the public relations sector, which is the field I work in. I'll put out some feelers before returning, obviously, but the plan is to hit the ground running when I get home.

"I don't think I'd come home if things were very bad, but that's not what I've found over the past few weeks. I'm definitely looking forward to returning at some stage in 2013. I have really enjoyed my time away but, in truth, I've realised that I've been a home bird all along."

Sunday Independent

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