News from Ireland:
You Can Go Home Again
By Irish America Staff
August / September 2000
One of the happy consequences of Ireland’s robust economy is the reversal of its centuries-long emigration trend. Now thousands of Irish citizens are returning home, often to find an Ireland that is quite different from the one they left.
To accommodate this new influx, the Irish government has published Returning to Ireland, a new information book aimed at the estimated thousands of Irish across the U.S. who have decided it’s time to go back home.
Dermot Ahern, Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs, traveled to the U.S. last May to promote the book, which will be widely available at most Irish immigration centers.
Returning to Ireland, subtitled “A practical guide to accommodation, health, tax, pensions and social welfare,” is designed to make the adjustment easier, said Ahern, “[Today’s returnees] are reasonably well-prepared, but not everyone is,” he pointed out. No precise numbers of returning Irish are available, said Ahern, but he noted that up to 15,000 newcomers are coming into Ireland annually, of which returnees are at least a substantial portion.
They are typically “young professionals who have good jobs here,” many of whose children have just reached schooling age. Of course, Ahern noted, they are returning to a very different country.
“Ireland is a completely different place than it was ten years ago – maybe even less,” Ahern said, when asked what returnees can expect. “[Traffic is now] as big a topic as the weather.”
Incentives such as lower housing prices, Ahern contends, have encouraged settlement beyond the Irish capital.
The prime motivator for returnees is, in Ahern’s mind, the desire for an Irish education.
“I was struck by it,” said Ahern, of the number of parents who returned primarily because their children had reached schooling age. When asked if the well-documented labor shortage in Ireland is also contributing to the upswing in returnees, Ahern said, “I think it’s mainly to do with education. Although [it helps] that there are plenty of jobs, too.”
Returning to Ireland provides general information, such as what your housing options are – even if it can’t tell you how to afford a decent place in the spiraling Irish real estate market. (“House prices in Europe are generally high, and Ireland is no exception,” the book warns.)
The book also lists important documents to bring back to Ireland, from medical records to occupational references, and also clearly outlines how your time spent in the U.S. will affect social welfare benefits.
Ahern also discussed another booklet on the Irish / U.S. Social Security Agreement, struck in 1993, which allows social security payments made in the U.S. to be transferred back to Ireland. ♦