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Irish family to spend first Christmas together in 12 years as parents follow kids to Australia

Janet and Eugene found being separated from their children and grandchildren unbearable.

IT HAS BEEN 12 years since the Bennis family were all able to sit down to a Christmas dinner together.

Janet and Eugene’s daughter Jennifer was the first of their four children to leave Ireland when she was 19.

Her brother Eoin followed seven years ago and siblings Clare and Cian also emigrated in the last couple of years when they couldn’t find work here.

The couple have lived in Limerick most of their lives but they have made the difficult decision to leave behind their neighbours and friends and Janet’s job, which she loves, to be with their family. They can no longer bear to be away from their children or continue to miss out on special moments with the grandkids.

A TV3 documentary which airs Monday night follows the couple as they sell the home where their children grew up and pack up their belongings for the big move.


“I miss the laughter, I miss the laughter around. I miss the fun,” an emotional Janet told TV3.

Eugene spoke of the loneliness they’d felt in the last few years:

The house used to be so busy and now it’s empty, there’s only the two of us here and it does get lonely at times and you miss them.

Though it is emotional time for them, they will get to spend this Christmas with the entire family and meet their grandaughter Alexia for the first time.

Another Irish family affected by emigration is that of John Gilbert and Noranne McCarthy from county Kerry. John lost his job as a tradesman in 2011, having worked all his adult life.


“He had to go in and draw his stamps and that was like, horrendous for him. Yeah to go into the social welfare and sign on for…well his own money, potentially that he’d paid in all through his life working, for what a year, two years, that’s the most you can draw out, so it wasn’t like he was going to be a burden to the government for the rest of his life,” Noranne said.

“He went in but it took him 6 or 7 weeks to get him in. He just didn’t want to go in.”

Noranne worked in the local post office but with two children at college to support, they struggled financially and John made the tough decision to leave for Canada in search of work.

He left here the 13th of June at six minutes past five. I will never forget it. Yeah, it was horrendous. People here saying goodbye to him, crying. Absolutely devastating. He went off and he texted me when he got to Shannon: “I really don’t want to go”.

John found full time work in Canada in construction and lives in a house with a group of other Irish men, many of whom have left their partners and children behind.

“I have a total new love and respect for him,” an emotional Noranne told TV3.

He will be home for Christmas, but a permanent return to Ireland is still not possible for him. He has applied to remain in Canada for another two years.

The TV3 documentary ‘Leaving Ireland for Good’ airs this Monday at 10pm. 

Read: “It’s just so hard”: Limerick couple to follow their four children to Australia – forever>

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