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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C

Column Unable to find work in Ireland, I had no choice but to leave

I was offered a job abroad and even though I had no family or friends there, I had to take it, writes Seanán Ó Coistín.

ONE DAY I am on a national radio station in Ireland speaking about the visit to Ireland of one of the world’s most famous political leaders, the next day leaving Ireland for Luxembourg where I know no one. Tuesday, June 19 last year was the day that I moved to Luxembourg to begin a new life and a new job. Unable to find work in Ireland, there was no reason for me to remain.

Since the economic crisis began in 2008, my employment record was up and down. For long periods I was unemployed. I had some jobs that lasted a few months. Prior to moving to Luxembourg, I worked as the Public Relations Officer for SPIRASI, a charity in Dublin that assists refugees and asylum seekers, on the JobBridge internship scheme. I spoke up for the most maligned type of emigrant, asylum seekers, during a recession.

The director of SPIRASI would have liked to have offered me a full-time job but he did not have the money to do so. A vacancy as a communications officer in a similar organisation was advertised,  so I applied, confident that my experience in communications and working for asylum seekers would make me an ideal candidate. I was not even shortlisted for an interview.

Missing out on opportunities

Not being even considered for this job, which seemed like a shoe-in for me, brought it home to me very strongly that there were not many possibilities for me in Ireland.

I was offered a job in May 2012 as an Irish proofreader in the Publications Office of the European Union in Luxembourg. Since nothing else was being offered to me, I accepted it. I had to arrange to quickly move to Luxembourg to begin working as soon as possible. But there was no way I was going to leave Ireland before the visit of a very special lady – Aung San Suu Kyi. As a member of the committee of Burma Action Ireland, it was going to be the most significant visit we would ever have – from the leader of the Burmese democracy movement no less. My job was to raise media awareness and conduct media interviews.

That day was particularly busy. I did numerous interviews on various local and national radio stations and for Nuacht RTÉ television news. The most important interview that day was an in studio interview on “The Last Word” on Today FM. Little did Matt Cooper know that I would be emigrating the following morning. Later I attended the Electric Burma concert and saw Aung Sang Suu Kyi accept the freedom of Dublin city outside the Bord Gais Energy Theatre. When I got home that evening and I had not finished packing my bag. Aung San Suu Kyi had come and gone and now it was time for me to move onto the next stage in my life.

This was my new life

I remember being in Dublin airport on my own and receiving farewell messages from my family and friends. It felt weird and lonely. When I arrived in Luxembourg, and I finally got into my hotel room and lay back on the bed, it struck me – “This is it. This is my new life”. It felt shit. I was alone. I knew no one.

It was extremely difficult for me to leave Ireland. I had so many friends there and now I knew no one. I had left Ireland before and lived abroad but this time it was different. There had not been the same amount of friends who were sad to see me go. I didn’t want to leave them either. I knew it had to be done as my life was not going anywhere in Ireland. But man, was it tough!

As I lay on my bed in the hotel room I reflected on all that had happened in the last 24 hours. One day I was in the midst of a big media story and saying goodbye to friends, the next I was in a new country alone.

I began working the very next day. The Irish language team expanded by 50 per cent as there had only been one Irish proofreader up to that point. Our job was to ensure the Irish version of the official Journal of the European Union was correct.

Amongst one of the other facts I learned about our office is that we are ground zero for – how shall I phrase this discretely? – the oldest profession known to man (and woman). It seems the architecture of the office with its ledges at street level is very convenient for prostitutes to sit down on and wait for men to come pick them up.

Life in Luxembourg

The first weekend I spent in Luxembourg was the weekend of La Fête Nationale, June 23. It is the national holiday in Luxembourg. I knew nothing of it when I arrived that week. There was the most spectacular fireworks display I have ever seen followed by a night of partying in the streets.

The first month in Luxembourg was emotionally very tough as I knew no one and spent the first ten days living in an hotel room. Once I moved into a house with four others, I made friends and began to know the city more. Now I have friends from many countries around the world. Luxembourg is a small city with a large number of people from other countries living there so it is very easy to get to know people and bump into the same people repeatedly.

My sister and her husband moved to Luxembourg in November as my brother in law was offered a senior position in a bank. It is bizarre that two from the same family should end up in the same little country in the same year.

Since my arrival here I have become RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s go to person in Luxembourg and have done a few interviews on life here.

Friends back home ask me when I plan to return to Ireland. I have no idea when I will return. I have no plans to. Christmas time might be the next time I will be home. The economic situation in Ireland is still bad so there is no reason to return.

Perhaps it will be time to return in 2016, when there might be a revived national pride in Ireland when the 1916 rising will be celebrated. I would like to be in the vanguard of that celebration.

Seanan Ó Coistín is from Kilcock, north county Kildare. He now lives in Luxembourg, where he works for the Publications Office of the European Union. His website and blog can be viewed here.

Column: What do you really know about emigrating?>

Read: 15 annoying things emigrants say>

Seanán Ó Coistín
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