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Declan Wilkes of Quilty says his goodbyes to his mother, Rita Ryan and sister, Jessica Wilkes before heading off from Shannon to England after spending Christmas at home. Photograph by John Kelly.

Clare emigrants take flight again

WHILE there was joy unconfined at Shannon Airport in the days before Christmas as emigrants arrived, the other side of the coin can be seen this week, as families wave off their loved ones.

Antoinette Jenkins came home from Perth, with her husband, Mark, and their three children. Her parents, Sean and Mary Nestor, were saying goodbye to them in the terminal on Tuesday afternoon.

Temperatures in Perth regularly hit 30oC during December, which was in stark contrast to the wintry conditions at Shannon but the weather didn’t dim her enjoyment of the visit at all.

“We had a lovely time. It was great to be back and to see all the family. It’s very, very hot there [in Perth] and very cold here but we love the change, so it’s all good.”

She has been in Australia for 18 years and is well settled there now. “It’s great, we’ve lots of friends there but it’s also great to get home and see the family.”

Her mother, Mary has been to Australia several times to visit but was delighted to have the visitors over Christmas. “It was wonderful to have them at home,” she said.

Thirty-one-year-old Declan Wilkes from Quilty has been in London for more than 12 years and was about to catch the flight back to Heathrow. He works for an education charity and while he is happy in London, he likes to get back when he can.

“It’s a blessing having the airport here and it’s cheap as chips to come over.”

Over Christmas he noticed that some of the people he grew up with are starting to return to West Clare, having left the country during the downturn.

Well-known West Clare author, Niall Williams was in Shannon dropping off his son, Joseph, who is studying in London but planning to move to New York next autumn.

Speaking about life in London, he said, “It’s good. I like what I do over there but it’s hard to be leaving right now.”

Niall said he had enjoyed having him home for Christmas and admitted he would like to have his son back living in Ireland.

“Oh yeah, it’d be wonderful and it’s wonderful to have him home for Christmas but that’s how it is now.”

He said he would be back at Shannon in a week’s time, as his daughter will be going to New York.

Marie Finnerty is a nurse based in Reading and while she says she is fairly happy there, she would love to be back at home.

“It’s a nice oul place, much the same as Galway but it’s not home. I’d come back in a heartbeat if I could.”

She said she hopes it will be possible to come back to stay within a year or so.

Albert Moylan is originally from “200 to 500 yards” on the Galway side of that county’s border with Clare. He has lived in Birmingham for 26 years but was delighted to have come back for a break.

“It wouldn’t be Christmas if you weren’t at home.”

He sounded quite an optimistic note about the direction the country is now going in.

“One of the most interesting things about living abroad is coming back. Seeing the Celtic Tiger first and wondering why things had changed so much, it seemed to be quite an unusual time. Then there was the big crash, which you would have noticed straight away but I think things have stabilised. People have got used to the austerity and there’s a different feel this year compared to previous years,” he said.

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Austin Hobbs

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