Christmas and New Year over, and the emigrants return overseas
By Sean Moriarty
Emigration from Ireland to the four corners of the world is at its highest levels since the Famine, according to year-end figures released by the Irish government.
An average of 200 people a day left Ireland last year with Britain, America, Australia Canada and New Zealand the top destinations.
The same day the government announced that the number of Irish people singing on for the dole fell but, according to trade union SIPTU, this failed to take into consideration the numbers leaving the country and that both figures have a direct correlation with each other.
The union’s economist Marie Sherlock said: “Just under 8,000 craft workers left the live register over the last 12 months to December 2012. This exodus of craft workers off the live register and presumably out of the country, accounts for almost three-quarters of the fall in numbers signing on during 2012.”
Last year 87,000 people left Ireland. As many as 16,000 came to this country according to the UK Department of Work and Pensions.
A further 4,938 Irish citizens received permanent residency in Australia and 4,564 in New Zealand (a 40 per cent increase in four years ago).
One interesting aspect of the new wave of emigration, that is almost impossible to quantify, is the large number of young Irish who arrive in Britain as a stop gap.
It is their first taste of living away from home and it is so often used as a spring board to further destinations, especially Australia.
Britain provides the perfect “try before you buy” scenario. Homesickness can be cured by a cheap Ryanair flight and the culture is not all that different.
It provides the life experience and university of life education that will prepare the young Irish for their next big step.
Eavan and Philip – Australia bound
Several young and not so young Irish have left London in recent weeks to start a new life Down Under. Take Kingdom Kerry Gaels ladies footballer Eavan McCrudden as an example.
The County Monaghan native worked with the National Autistic Society (UK) as an occupational therapist while at the same time studying for her Master’s Degree in a related subject.
Exams completed, Miss Mc Crudden and her boyfriend Philip Rooney returned to their native County Monaghan for the Christmas period.
It was a chance to say a few last goodbyes to family and friends in Ireland before they embarked on a new life in Sydney. They left Ireland this week and are taking an extended tour of South America before arriving in their new home in time for St Patrick’s Day.
Of course, it could be argued that the young couple are making what finance minister Michael Noonan famously described as a lifestyle choice this time last year.
Who would not want to swap the dull and dreary winter of London or Dublin for the blue Pacific coast alongside Bondi Beach? Maybe we should save that question until next December when they will not have Ryanair’s short haul fleet on their door steps.
But they are not alone either. One married couple, who wished to remain unnamed, upped sticks last November.
They sold their Cricklewood home, turned their backs on ten years of London life and headed for Perth on Australia’s West Coast. Simply, they just wanted a new start.
Many go on a one or two year visa to test the water before committing to a full time life in exile.
Andrew Fraser is a journalist with The Australian newspaper. He said: “If the voice of the waiter that brings your flat white has a lilting Irish accent, then get used to it as an increasing number of Irish are coming to Australia for a working holiday – often to ‘test the waters’ to see whether they want to move here permanently.
Sinead McGuire is a physiotherapist who has a one-year working visa but then hopes to apply for permanent residency.
She said: “In Australia, the economic situation is a lot more carefree. We left because we can't get jobs in Ireland.
“Everyone's a lot happier here. I'm really outdoorsy and I can't do that in Ireland, so I've moved for the weather and also to get a job."
England was Ms McGuire's first port of call when departing Ireland, where she worked briefly in a hospital in Leeds, but the presence of her family in Australia (her parents moved to Brisbane six months ago) has given her a base from which to look for more permanent work.
A scarcity of skilled construction sector workers like electricians, welders and pipefitters has prompted Canadian officials to relax its immigrations rules and has made 3,000 visas available to Irish workers.
From the beginning of the year the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration will fast track applicants without third-level degrees under its Federal Skills Trade Programme. It is the first time that construction and other skilled workers without a third level degree are being considered for permanent residency.
Now they only need a proficiency in French or English, and training and work experience in a trade that is in demand in the country.
Projections by the government in Canada reveal a shortfall of 320,000 skilled workers between now and 2020.
The new programme will only take 3,000 workers this year but that is expected to be expanded as older Canadians reach retirement age – a decrease in the country’s birth rate means that there is a shortage of youngsters to take their places.
Jason Kenney, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration minister visited Ireland last year.
He said: The government of Canada is committed to building an immigration system that actively recruits talent, rather than passively processing all applicants we receive.
“That is part of the reason I am visiting Ireland to personally promote all the opportunities that Canada has to offer talented individuals from around the world.”
Things are better in this country than they are in Ireland, but only just. London and other big cities have the population to support business but Londoners have yet to feel the traditional bust that follows any city that hosts an Olympic Games.
The CrossRail project will keep the construction and allied trades busy for the foreseeable future and there always seems to be a demand for Irish nurses and teachers in the capital.
However rail fares have already gone up since the New Year. It means less money in people’s pockets so entertainment and social activities will be the first to take the hit.
By default the first to suffer, in terms of job losses and business closures will be in the hospitality sector where 1,000s of Irish are employed in full time and art time positions.
Some economists fear Britain may be on the edge of a triple dip recession and that, as things stand, 2013 looks like being a repeat of 2012.
There are four sources of growth: consumer spending, investment, government consumption and exports, and the outlook for all four is challenging.
Wages are growing more slowly than prices and households want to cut their indebtedness, not increase it.
Last week we published a photograph of Irish emigrants leaving Dublin airport after the Christmas break as they made their way back to their adopted homes.
The photo was published on the same day that the Irish government released the Live Register figures.
MEANWHILE in Ireland some 50,000 people a year seek to stay there permanently.
Last year 165,700 new applications for visas, residence, asylum and citizenship were received, said Ireland’s Department of Justice.
Over 25,000 citizenship applications were decided on, the department said, with 22,000 granted. Applications decided on were up from 16,000 in 2011 and approximately 8,000 in 2010.
Some 88,000 entry visa applications were made last year, up by 6 per cent on 2011. These allow individuals from non-European Economic Area countries to enter Ireland. More than 90 per cent of these applications were granted, and more than half the people were from India, Russia, China, Nigeria and Turkey.