Sometimes, when we speak of emigration, we forget that it relates to people just like you and me. Most likely, the sector they work in can no longer provide them with employment. They have to travel abroad in search of work: they are not travelling to gain work experience, and they are not on a year out enjoying themselves—they are leaving Ireland because they can’t get a job here.
One such person is Michael “Mick” Creaby (35), who originally hails from Ashbourne in Co. Meath. I phoned him recently to learn about his journey.
“I’m in Canada now, and have been here coming up on four years. I left Ireland reluctantly back in 2010,” explained Mick.
Like many in the construction sector, Mick’s main reason for moving to Canada was to find work. “I travelled a lot when I was younger—for the joy and experience of going away—but this time I had to go for work,” he said. A carpenter by trade, Mick couldn’t gain employment in Ireland after the collapse of the construction sector, an area greatly impacted during the downturn.
Mick decided to go to Canada because he had previously been to Australia, and had tried London, too. “Canada was the only place where things were still busy in the construction sector, and it was still pretty easy to get a visa. It was a new experience…I had a buddy over here, he recommended it highly, and so I said I’d give it a shot,” said Mick.
Mick says he has gained a lot of experience working abroad. However, this time he was travelling out of necessity and not for work experience, which made the journey much different. “I already knew what it was going to be like to work in another country, and anyway, staying at home was going to be more of a struggle than to go away and start again.” Mick said he found it easy enough to get a visa because he was a carpenter, and they have been in great demand in Canada in recent years.
Mick says he has qualified for permanent residency in Canada, and sees his short-term future there. “I really don’t know where I will be in ten years time. It’s been a good decision for me to move here—it’s been a good move. I’ve had to start all over again, but it’s been good for me.”
Mick doesn’t have a family in Canada, so he doesn’t have to consider moving back to Ireland with them, be that for school or other reasons. He does, however, have family back in Ireland. Family that he thinks about a lot.
“If I met an Irish girl I wouldn’t rule out going home, but to be honest with you, from the outside looking in, Ireland is not all that attractive-looking now. Things are pretty good here, and who knows…I certainly wouldn’t rule out going back. However, I’m not in any rush to change again,” said Mick.
Mick says he still looks at the news in Ireland every day. “I always keep an eye on what’s going on [in Ireland], but I also keep an eye on politics over here, too. It’s interesting to see how things are run here compared to Ireland. At the moment, I’m working in the oil and gas sector—which is huge in Canada—so that’s an area I’m keeping up to date with,” said Mick.
“There is a large Irish scene in Canada”, says Mick. However, he works in remote locations for the oil company—with a two-week-on, one-week-off shift system—so he spends a lot of time with his work colleagues, who are mostly Canadian. “I don’t have a huge crew of Irish people I hang around with, but I do have Irish friends. I have a lot of Canadian friends, so it’s a different mixture.”
Mick recently moved to Calgary from Vancouver. He says he doesn’t tend to get homesick, but that he misses his family and friends at times.
“When I say I’m not homesick and it doesn’t really affect me, I should add that it’s my family…my mother and father, who are both in their 70’s and probably not likely to visit me in my new home…it’s that that gets to me. And my elderly aunt, who was always there to help us out around the place, who I’m not there to help now when she needs it,” said Mick.
“There’s a line from the Taoiseach—that we travel well, and are a great bunch for getting up and going, that patronizing nonsense—but it’s the thought that I only see those I love once a year at best, and miss the most precious time with them, and they with me. I’m missing their golden years, and the relationships with nieces and nephews and friends—that changes too. That’s what emigration is for people in their 30’s, really. That’s not a finger-pointing rant or an attempt to fix blame, just the reality for me,” said Mick.
Irish Culture Abroad
“I’ve always been very proud to be Irish, but I guess I’ve gotten more into it while abroad,” said Mick. “Over here there is a great interest in Irish culture. There is so much Irish history and culture in families over here, there are a lot of people from out east, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, who sound Irish. There is a lot of Irish history in their families, and it definitely makes me—well I won’t say more proud, because I’ve always been proud to be Irish—but I definitely take more of an interest in the culture now that I’m abroad. When you are at home, you are Irish and living in Ireland. Now I’m an Irishman living in Canada,” explains Mick.