Emotions run high as young flock home for Christmas
IT has been decades since emigration has been so painfully high, and at Dublin Airport yesterday the consequences were highly visible.
Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and friends tightly hugged newly returned loved ones as Ireland's latest lost generation makes its Christmas homecoming.
If our forced era of flight was in need of proof, then this was surely it.
"To see your own flesh and blood go is terrible -- he hated leaving Ireland," said Aidan Hoey, from Dublin, who stood with his wife Angela beside a dazzling 'welcome home' banner.
Their 29-year-old son David and girlfriend Kirsty (31) have been in Australia for two years.
The couple are engaged to be married and while everything was planned for Ireland, their families point out that their grandchildren will now most likely be born on the other side of the world.
"It's very, very emotional -- Skype is fine but some days you just want a hug.
"It's just so good to have them home for Christmas," said Kirsty's mother Jan Kileen.
"I am angry about it. They had a beautiful apartment and they were going to get married and have children. It's very hard for us."
But the reasons they had to leave, explained David, were obvious.
"We both got let go and I was looking for jobs everywhere," he said.
"Over in Australia I have been working every day for good money and a good life. I was just forced out."
Enda McGrath (36) has been living in Melbourne for the past year and yesterday he met his eight-week-old nephew Billy for the first time.
"He's a lovely little fella. I have seen photos on Facebook but it's nice to be home," he said, surrounded by family members.
His brother Fergal (30), one of five siblings, explained: "It means a lot (for the family to get together) because both of our parents are dead.
"We have another sister Katherine in Melbourne but she couldn't come home. She was disappointed."
Everywhere you look somebody is welcoming somebody home -- the sense of happiness slightly diluted by palpable anger and frustration.
"I volunteered to come and get him," said Gavin Tierney (39) who arrived to collect his best friend Tyrone O'Neill, an unemployed painter-decorator in Ireland, gainfully employed in Brisbane.
"He was so looking forward to coming home and catching up with everybody over Christmas. It will be so nice to catch up."
The Dublin Airport Authority estimates that some 620,000 people will travel in and out of Ireland this Christmas period between December 21 and January 3.
The train network will also be working to capacity and Irish Rail expects about 400,000 individual journeys throughout Ireland over Christmas and the new year.
Those making the long journey home, or travelling away, can check with www.irishrail.ie and www.dublinairport.com.