Re-Post News: Happy St Patrick’s Day from the Irish who call New Zealand home
Sometimes the grass is just greener on the other side – even if you come from the Emerald Isle.
Ireland has a population of about six million, but 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry – including 20 per cent of Kiwis.
In 2013, almost 14,000 Irish-born people were counted in the New Zealand census, and as the Christchurch rebuild gathers momentum, the influx continues.
About 2079 Irish residents were recorded as living in the Canterbury region in 2013, compared with 1077 in 2011.
They don’t move in packs or try to start fights – the majority actually go out of their way to avoid fellow Irish people and make Kiwi friends.
According to Statistics New Zealand, 1134 long-term migrants from Ireland, and more than 10,000 Irish visitors, made their way to New Zealand in the past year.
Ireland has been the fastest-growing economy in the European Union for the past three years, but despite the economy looking up, the Irish were in no hurry to head back, with many now calling New Zealand home.
The country was also finding it difficult to form a coalition after the recent general election.
Honorary Consul General of Ireland, Niamh McMahon, said there was a history of Irish coming to New Zealand in waves, which was a reflection on the opportunities here, with the Christchurch rebuild responsible for the latest spike.
Many Irish moved to New Zealand because of the poor economy in Ireland, but the lifestyle was a bonus, she said.
Those who came on working holiday visas usually worked in the hospitality sector, but highly skilled workers were either in IT or in Christchurch.
The Irish and Kiwis got on well and it was unusual to hear of people leaving New Zealand because they did not like it, McMahon said.
She could not think of any barriers to Irish people living in New Zealand.
“Irish people are hard-working, highly skilled and sought after.”
Fletcher Construction chief executive Graham Darlow last year made derogatory comments about Irish workers, after sub-standard repair work was discovered in Christchurch.
“There may be a few that we can’t find the contractor, maybe they’ve gone out of business, maybe they’ve gone back to Ireland,” Darlow said, drawing criticism in both countries.
He swiftly backtracked, and McMahon had been in touch with him.
“A lot of people were upset and hurt. He apologised. We said that it was wrong and he should not have said them and moved on.”
Countries around the world, including New Zealand, would be making landmarks green to mark St Patrick’s Day, and McMahon said that showed a tremendous support for the Irish abroad.
Structural Engineer, Fearghal McGuinness and his fiancee Sarah Flanagan, got engaged in New Zealand and recently bought a house in Queenstown.
The Dublin couple had returned to New Zealand in 2012, after a visit in 2008.
“We both felt like it was a place we could live and decided we would go back after we qualified. It just coincided with the economic downturn at home,” McGuinness said.
The pair missed their family but did not get homesick.
McGuinness said he did not feel like they were missing out at home and believed they would live in New Zealand indefinitely.
“We have the whole package here – the work-life balance suits our outdoor lifestyle and the people are super friendly and honest.”
Irish people had a reputation for having a good time and he believed any derogatory comments were usually tongue-in-cheek or aimed at individuals, rather than the Irish as a group.
He had worked in Christchurch and understood many Irish workers did not intend to stay for the long-haul, and would go home now the Irish economy was picking up.
James McBride, from Draperstown in Northern Ireland, moved to Christchurch in 2013.
“I came for the work but I’m staying for the people,” he said.
New Zealanders were laid back but still got things done. McBride enjoyed the Kiwi lifestyle and recently took up hunting – something he could not easily do at home.
He planned to stay in New Zealand, but wanted to move on from the rebuild, which was busy but tedious and poorly organised, he said.
Marcus O’Neill, from Kildare, works in IT in Wellington. He came to New Zealand in 2012 and plans to build a future here.
“I left Ireland because it was an extremely depressing place to be. All day, every day, the news related to more tax hikes, less jobs, higher mortgages, more bills, redundancies and emigration. The economy was still extremely poor at the time and businesses folded regularly.”
He made the decision to pursue a better life elsewhere and said moving to New Zealand was the best thing he ever did.
“I love New Zealand because of the lifestyle, the people and the atmosphere. Everything is so positive compared to back home.”
Clare Creely, who works at Circa Theatre in Wellington, moved to the capital in 2013 with her husband Martin Quinn, who works as a nurse.
She liked that New Zealand was laidback and offered opportunities for progression in various careers.
Terri Pinnell is returning to Dublin next month when her working holiday visa comes to an end.
“I’ve enjoyed my time here. I wasn’t able to find full-time work at home and everything seemed to be a struggle. Finding work here has never been a issue and life seems quite easy. The large Irish community here is a great support when you are so far away from home.”
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