Irish emigrants are facing a number of “obstacles” which could discourage their return to Ireland, an Oireachtas committee has heard. Ciaran Staunton, Chairman of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform (ILIR), said there are several issues, including insurance premiums, broadband speeds and the procedure for opening a bank account, which need to be addressed.
He explained how “at least one in four households have been directly affected by emigration since 2006”.
Noting how some are likely to want to return at some point, he said more needs to be done to make it an appealing proposition. He cited the case of a friend who had expected to pay €400 a year for car insurance on returning to Ireland after 10 years in the US, only to find that their premium cost €1,900. While those returning from the UK, Canada and other European countries have measures in place to prevent this, Mr Staunton said it was important to ensure that all returning emigrants are well-represented.
He accused the Irish Government of a “complete lack of empathy” for returning emigrants and added that people from rural areas of Ireland will be most affected.
“Economic recovery has not been evenly distributed across rural areas,” he told the committee.
This means it can be a struggle for some people to return to their family farms in Ireland. Karen McHugh, of Safe Home Ireland – an organisation which helps mostly older Irish people return from abroad – said she has witnessed a drop in applications in recent years. She said the Irish Government wants more people to return home but questioned how, if things aren’t put in place to help them, it intends to achieve this. She explained how attitudes towards “driving, housing, social protection, employment and healthcare” among returning emigrants are all slowing things down.
Safe Home Ireland has arrangements in place with local housing authorities, the Department of Social Protection, and the banks, to provide assistance for the over-60s looking to move back but Ms McHugh believes more can be done.
“It is possible to address the barriers; we have done it for a certain cohort,” she said. “When families want to come back, when young people want to come back…it is not straightforward at all. The goodwill needs to be there.”