New Year sparks job-hunting frenzy among Irish emigrants
A generation who fled the recession is working its way home after emigrants went job hunting for Christmas, writes Wayne O'Connor
As the holidays fade into 2017 they will march through Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports again. Bound for far-flung corners of the globe, the presents and gifts emigrants returned home with in December will have been replaced by heavy hearts and a reluctance to leave home.
It is always hard to say goodbye.
For some, the recent weeks will have been a welcome opportunity to catch up with loved ones. For others, with the economy resurgent and jobs increasingly becoming available in new startups or multinational companies, it marked a new chance and hundreds of emigrants went job hunting in recent days.
It is a far cry from the Ireland Gerard O'Donnell (30), from Moycullen, left behind in 2011.
He has returned home with his girlfriend Marselina Sari. The pair met working in Perth, Australia, and are confident they can start a new life in Ireland.
"People tell you things are picking up here a lot more but you don't really know until you move back, so I said I'd give it a go," said Gerard.
He left with a degree in construction management after struggling to find work.
He has already secured a temporary job in Galway but said there are other challenges to consider when relocating to Ireland.
"It seems a lot more optimistic here now but renting properties is a lot more difficult and a lot more expensive. Car insurance too is a lot harder to sort out and a lot of companies wouldn't even give me a quote because I have been out of the country."
On top of this, Marselina, who comes from Indonesia, had to organise visas and travel documentation. She hopes work will be easy to come by.
"I graduated in accounting and finance so I am looking for a finance job here.
"I have had experience in retail too so hopefully there is work for me."
Finance jobs are in high demand for those looking to return to Irish soil.
Eddie O'Reilly, a 57-year-old banker from Loughrea, Co Galway, swapped a wet, forlorn and financially struggling Ireland to take up a role with Saudi Arabia's central bank at the beginning of the recession.
He now wants to move home after eight years away and has set himself the target of returning to Ireland by July.
"I thought in 2008 that someone in my environment in an Irish bank wasn't going to have opportunities. I never had the intention of leaving [Ireland] but after 30 years you begin to think if there is another challenge left and I could see the writing on the wall.
"Career prospects and promotions were scarce."
He took time out last week to scope-out the jobs market by attending one of the numerous careers fairs around the country. Many of them were attempting to entice emigrants such as Eddie back to Ireland.
"I have kids based here, in Ireland, and in Australia, but we have a grandchild here now as well so that is why we are looking to come back to Ireland. We want to come home."
He was among a group of 100 emigrants attending a careers day in Galway on Thursday specifically tailored for those visiting Ireland for Christmas.
More than 350 people attended the Home for Work national recruitment day events in Galway, Cork, Athlone and Sligo, organised by Collins McNicholas Recruitment and HR Services Group.
Another 500 went to a three-day HSE recruitment fair in Dublin last week.
Many of those attending were millennials who left when work was hard to come by.
Collins McNicholas director Michelle Murphy said people were now visiting home, hearing about new job prospects and having their heads turned.
"The opportunities are there," said Michelle.
"There is strong interest for people with technical engineering backgrounds, IT and a lot of people with a background in finance coming back from London."
Others always had the ambition to return to Ireland with CVs weighed-down with foreign experience to boost their job prospects.
Teacher Rita Feeney (35), from Galway City, has returned from Dubai and is keen to find work at home.
"It has been on my mind for the last few years and I would rather be home now because I have been gone a long time, 10 years.
"When you are away, you see your parents get older and they need your support more than ever now. Every time you come home, saying goodbye is harder.
"I feel more positive about Ireland now, especially after my visits in the past two years. Every time it felt more like there were jobs here and you hear stories about companies setting up here."
However, not all of those looking to return are victims of the recession and the Celtic Tiger's fall.
Ernie, a 46-year-old builder, and his wife Maura met in New York after emigrating in the 1990s.
He has asked us to withhold his surname as his employers do not know he intends to leave America before the summer.
The couple want to raise their young children in Ireland and be close to their families.
"I still work in construction but I am moving home in 2017. Things are starting to pick up here and the work is starting to reappear so I don't think this is a bad time for me to start looking now.
"There is a shortage of housing here and people have been saying to me 'Ernie, now would be a good time to move back', so I am going to do it."
Mother-of-two Colette Painter recently moved home from London after 13 years away because she also wanted to raise her children in Ireland.
"I finished my degree and decided I wanted to see the world so did that from being based in London but then I had my babies and I decided I wanted to come home.
"The quality of life here is much better, plus I am that bit older now with kids and London is the kind of place to be in your 20s."
She said she made the move after being encouraged by growing job prospects in Galway.
"Everyone is thinking turkeys and Santa at the moment so I thought it would be good to come in and get a head start on the job hunt while it is quiet and before it picks up again in the New Year.
"You need to be sure you can get employment but things are certainly a lot more optimistic here now."