Emigrants could find it ‘harder to return to Ireland than it was to leave’

Emigrants may find it difficult to return to Ireland

Thousands of people have left Ireland over the last six years as the recession hit the country hard.

The government is now actively encouraging Irish citizens to return home and many are thinking that now may be the right time to do so. However, it might not be as easy as they think.

While there are more jobs on offer, as well as skills shortages in certain sectors, there may be other problems to contend with, according to Father Alan Hilliard, who is a board member of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants.

Emigrants may find it difficult to return to Ireland

In his column in the Irish Times Fr Hilliard discussed how people who have left Ireland since 2009 are now at a stage where they are beginning to decide whether to stay in their adoptive country permanently or try to come home.

He also brought up some of the problems that they may encounter.

Fr Hilliard wrote: “Research tells us that while departure is difficult, returning can be infinitely harder. The process is made even more complicated by the assumption that it’s just a matter of slipping back in the flow of things.”

He said that while a person is away they experience new things and often grow as a person. In many cases they are not the same as when they went away.

Likewise, the family dynamic that they left behind won’t have stood still.

Fr Hilliard continued: “Other siblings may be looking on from the sidelines seeing a great fuss being made of the returnee, and will have their own thoughts, views and feelings on what is happening as well.

“Return, like a lot of change, has to be negotiated carefully. There is delight but there is also a degree of anxiety. This is all part of the emotional process of emigration and return that can be collectively called “migratory mourning.

“Mourning or grief is as much about change and adaption as it is about loss. It can be as much about place and atmosphere as people. With all these issues in the mix, it is quite clear that returning is never just a matter of fitting in to the old ways; this approach is sure to cause conflict and damage relationships.”

He says it can be quite startling for a person who returns and sees that many things have changes. For some people it is only then that they realise how much they themselves have also changed. People can start to feel like strangers in their own home.

Fr Hilliard concludes that people returning to Ireland shouldn’t expect things to be the same as when they left as it could lead to heartbreak.