Northern Ireland

Leaving home... the new wave of emigration

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Image caption The new wave of emigration sees highly skilled people deserting Ireland

The death of the Celtic Tiger has led to a renewed exodus from Ireland's shores. The latest figures from the Central Statistics Office show emigration is at its highest level since 1989.

In the Radio Ulster documentary, "Leaving Home", Barbara Collins has been to Galway to find out how this new wave of emigrants differs from those of the 1950s and the 1980s.

One hundred and twenty thousand people have left Ireland in the past two years, with a further 120,000 predicted to leave between this year and the next.

Sean Mannion is an engineer from Oranmore in Galway. Like most of the Celtic Tiger generation, he never envisaged having to leave Ireland for work.

It looked like Ireland had turned a corner and forced emigration had been consigned to history, but he's had to move his family to Frankfurt in Germany.

He says he's frustrated that he's had to leave a nice home in a good area, but is resigned to having to work in mainland Europe for the foreseeable future.

Arts graduate Eoin O'Sullivan, from Moycullen, is teaching English in South East Asia. He sees his future on a continent on the other side of the world.

Forced emmigration

Eoin says there's nothing for him in Ireland. His mother, Bernadette says it took her a long time to accept that he's gone, perhaps forever.

Sean and Eoin are both examples of a new breed of Irish emigrant; educated, articulate, and out of work at home.

The benefits of their skills and knowledge are being enjoyed by other countries. Ireland is exporting the most dynamic element of its society.

Niall Clarke left school and went straight into the construction industry. By his early 20s, he had two men working for him and was able to go on foreign holidays on a whim.

Now he's working on a farm, four hours' drive from Perth, Western Australia. Like many generations of emigrants before him, he sends part of his wages back to Ireland, but the money doesn't go to support his family; it's to pay back loans.

Countless others like him are doing the same; either paying back loans or paying off huge mortgages on properties in negative equity.

Damien Dunleavy hasn't made the jump yet. He's passionate about the GAA and is a star player on the Galway county team, but there's no work for blocklayers and he knows he has to go soon.

He's looking at possibilities in London. When he goes, he'll leave behind a heartbroken mother and father, who hoped that their only son would always be nearby.

Social networking sites and email may have made communications between emigrants and their relatives easier, but the pain of separation is still very real.

After a decade of boom times, forced emigration has again become a fact of life.

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