One section of the community that was particularly badly hit by the recession was homeowners in their 30s and 40s; many of whom became mired in negative equity and living in Dublin’s extended commuter belt in counties such as Laois and Westmeath. For those younger still, emigration became, for many, almost inevitable. From mid 2008 to mid 2013, 200,000 Irish nationals emigrated, though more than half  (120,600) have returned. Emigration has been central to the Irish experience since the nineteenth century, but what emigration has meant for the individual has changed over time and contemporary emigrants are much more likely to be better educated than their predecessors. In fact more than two thirds of the very recent emigrants between the ages of 25 and 34 have third level degrees and half of those who have emigrated in recent years quit full time employment to do so. Not all emigration is forced or due to economic necessity; it is not accurate to see all emigrants as victims and not all of them see Ireland as a landscape of loss. Being Irish abroad has changed significantly, and for the better, over the last 50 years.  There is, as was pointed out by President Mary McAleese in 2009, a “powerful global emigrant family…which makes important and powerful friends for Ireland in industry, commerce and politics all over the world”. There is greater ease of travel, and developments in technology mean communications home are a lot more frequent and speedier.

There are, however, certain aspects of the Irish emigrant experience that have been common to the different generations of emigrants; feelings of displacement and dislocation, hope mixed with apprehension, ambition combined with sentiments of loss, the pain of separation, and anger on the part of some that leaving was the only viable option.


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