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Tears of joy as Irish journalist finally getting back home from Australia

As tough travel restrictions are eased, Catherine Murphy can’t wait for to see her family and experience a Cavan hangover


Irish TV journalist Catherine Murphy, who is based in Melbourne

Irish TV journalist Catherine Murphy, who is based in Melbourne

Irish TV journalist Catherine Murphy, who is based in Melbourne

An Irish television presenter based in Australia cried “tears of joy” last week when news broke that her adopted country is finally easing its travel restrictions.

It has been nearly two years since Catherine Murphy (40), a sports journalist and TV presenter for ABC Melbourne who has lived in Australia for 15 years, has been able to come home. The Cavan woman has booked her flights and will finally return to Ireland at the end of next month. She is already “counting down the days” until she is reunited with family and friends.

Before Covid, she returned to Ireland twice a year, but has not seen her loved ones since Christmas 2019.

Murphy said not being able to visit her family for so long has been “incredibly difficult”, but is relieved she will soon make the long and long-anticipated journey home. She added that thousands of other emigrants are in the same boat and she recognises the suffering Covid-19 has caused worldwide.

“Right now, I just feel such a huge relief. I feel so much better now waking up every day knowing that, finally, I’ll see them all soon,” she said.

“I live in Melbourne city, in the state of Victoria, and it signed up to a national plan that when it reached 80pc of the population being fully vaccinated, international travel would resume.

“It was announced last week that Victoria would reach that by early November. I had already booked my flights in the hope it would happen. Even though I knew it was coming, I was sobbing at my desk last week when it was announced. You don’t realise sometimes how big an impact all of this has had until suddenly you do.”

Australia has endured one of the world’s longest and toughest lockdowns since the pandemic began. It has also struggled to secure vaccines, leaving citizens living under onerous restrictions.

Melbourne is still under a 9pm curfew and many of its shops and businesses remain closed.

Murphy feels “very lucky” that because she works at a TV studio she has been allowed to still go into the office rather than working from home, which has left many people isolated during lengthy lockdowns.

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“We’re in our sixth lockdown now, I think. It’s been hard to keep count,” she said. “Melbourne holds the unenviable title of the world’s longest lockdown. We have a 9pm curfew. In 20 days’ time, some restrictions are easing and some outdoor dining and other things will return.

“History will judge how different countries handled Covid, but I think when you’ve the world’s record for longest lockdown, a lot has gone wrong.

“No one had a rulebook for how to deal with Covid, and Australia has had a lot fewer deaths than other places in the world, which is so important and significant. Like I say, history will be the judge of how different parts of the world dealt with this.

“What I do know is that the city of Melbourne has been decimated and people are just so defeated. The soul of it is gone right now. I just hope it rebounds quickly. I hope when we reopen we get back the soul of the city quickly.”

In Ireland, Murphy’s family are already preparing for her homecoming. She is particularly excited about meeting her nephew, who has just turned one, and spending some quality time with her niece, who will turn three in December. She hasn’t seen her in “real life” since she was one.

“My mum’s in charge of my itinerary. I’ve a very supportive employer, ABC, and they’ve given me such a long break off to go home and I really appreciate it,” she said. “I’ll be coming back to Australia in early January. It’s just becoming so real now, that I’ll actually see them all soon. My sister-in-law has been great, posting photos almost every day of my nephew and niece on our family WhatsApp group. It’s been so important to be able to keep in touch with video calls too. But now I can look at the photos and they don’t break my heart, because I know I’ll see them soon.

“My niece loves the film Frozen, and I’ve been told I’ve to dress up as Anna at some stage, which I had to google. I was home for her first birthday and now I’ll be there for her third birthday in December.”

Murphy also plans to mark her recent birthday during a visit to Dublin to celebrate with friends who also marked the milestone during Covid.

“I’ve big reunion plans with all my friends. Dublin and Cavan hangovers are just different to anything I’ve ever experienced in Australia and I can’t wait for another one. My friends in Melbourne don’t understand this, but that’s the truth.”

She also hopes she will return to a slightly different Melbourne in January and is optimistic that the easing of restrictions in the coming weeks will help the city return to some sort of normality.

“I was fully prepared to have to do mandatory hotel quarantine when I get back, but it looks like I will be able to quarantine at home,” she said.

“Everyone here is really looking forward to restrictions easing in 20 days. Restrictions easing actually coincides with Melbourne Cup Day, which is the major horse racing event.

“It’s such a Melbourne thing to happen, that restrictions ease on that exact day. There will be a small amount of spectators allowed at it.

“I just hope that, slowly, things are getting better. Melbourne is obsessed with Covid — we still have the daily Covid briefings, which I can’t avoid because of my job, but many people can’t watch any more because it’s too much for their mental health.

“I can’t wait to come home and just not talk about Covid.”

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