Contact Us

Irish emigrants struggle to adjust to life abroad priest warns

By Sarah Mac Donald - 30 July, 2013

An Irish priest based in Sydney has warned that increasing numbers of young Irish emigrants are struggling to adapt to their new life in Australia.

Fr Tom Devereux works as a chaplain in Bondi in the Australian city and he has noted an increase in psychiatric problems among Irish emigrants.

According to the Irish Echo in Australia, Fr Devereux believes the increased number of Irish emigrants struggling with psychiatric problems is partly linked to the transition they have to make from rural to urban life.

He also suggested that the relatively young age of the emigrants was the main cause of their problems.

“Some of them are coming from the countryside, and Sydney is probably the first major city they have ever had to deal with and it can be very lonely,” he explained. “Others can get in trouble with drink and drugs.”

Separately, the most senior Catholic bishop in the west of Ireland has expressed concern over the ongoing impact emigration is having on rural dioceses.

Archbishop Michael Neary of Tuam told CatholicIreland.net that there were “broken hearts” in families and a lot of “justified anger” as well as “impoverished” communities left behind as the young continued to leave.

“There is something particularly sad about seeing rural areas today that cannot field a football team because the young men and girls have gone off to Australia or Canada,” he said.

Referring to people’s anger, he said many believed that had those responsible for the economic crisis “been less arrogant”, they might have been able to take “corrective action” before the situation reached the stage it is at now.

Speaking after the launch of a new pilgrim prayer card in Westport on Saturday evening for those climbing Croagh Patrick, the Archbishop said that his own diocese of Tuam had a history of emigration but that it was “very pronounced now”.

“When young fellows or young girls leave, they take so many others with them. If they return for a holiday, you find so many others joining them. Some of them hopefully will return but I fear some of them may never come back,” he said.

The Archbishop said that though the Church did not have any ready-made solution to stem the scourge of emigration, it was trying to work with local groups to tackle the legacy of the economic crisis.

He explained that six bishops representing six dioceses in the west of Ireland have been working alongside the Develop the West group and the Western Development Commission to find ways to tackle emigration and obtain government or statutory supports to stem the outward flow of young Irish in the region.

Three weeks ago, Bishops Brendan Kelly, John Kirby, Christopher Jones, Michael Neary, John Fleming and Martin Drennan met with representatives of these two groups in Claremorris.

According to Archbishop Neary, “While there was a recognition of the challenges and the difficulties, there was also a determined note of optimism that we can do something about this and we will do something about it.” 

In his homily for Reek Sunday, delivered on the summit of Croagh Patrick on Sunday morning, the Archbishop hit out at the greed and pride which contributed to the economics crisis and which fuelled an illusion that “the few could shape the world as they wished.”

“If we had been more conscious of our own limitations and abilities – and lack of ability – we might have recognised that we were on a path that couldn’t last and would have serious repercussions for others,” he said.

Instead, a few felt they “could make decisions irrespective of how they might affect other people” and so “became rich at the expense and deprivation of many.”

By Sarah Mac Donald

Tags: , , , , ,