FAMILIES of young people forced to emigrate in search of work questioned whether Finance Minister Michael Noonan had lost touch with reality last night.
Hours after Mr Noonan suggested people were being driven abroad by a desire to see the world, mother-of-four Pauline Fay asked if he understood the pain of emigration.
Ms Fay, from Drumconrath, Co Meath, has seen a son and daughter emigrate to Australia in the past 16 months. She said Mr Noonan simply did not understand the dire straits rural communities were in, nor the pain of having children on the other side of the world.
"He is not in touch with the real Ireland," Ms Fay said, adding that five other young people from the small village were planning to emigrate shortly.
Her son, Larry Fay (26), left for Melbourne in August 2009 after he was made redundant from his job as an electrician.
"It hurts losing your children to another land so far away, that pain never goes away. I'm going out the first of next month to see them. It will be 16 months since I have seen my son."
She said that while it was true that her son was going "to improve his quality of life for himself and the future" the alternative back home would be the dole.
"The sort of person he is he would never intend to live on €190. There was no quality of life and it was very degrading."
Her son was working within three days of arriving in Australia.
Her daughter Claire (22) followed Larry last year. She left six months ago for Perth as she felt there was little prospect of promotion from low-paid jobs after studying event management.
Meanwhile, Patrick Conboy, who is studying for a masters in public law at NUI Galway, said many of his friends had emigrated to London, Canada, Qatar and Australia in search of work.
"My own personal experience and from talking to friends they have had no option but to emigrate," said Mr Conboy.
"When people graduate some are more adventurous and want to see a bit of the world," he admitted.
But he stressed that during their studies, many will have incurred "severe personal debt and they want to pay back their loans".