I emigrated in June 2003.


I simply wanted to spread my wings and live overseas.


Aged 22, I had finished my final year exams at University College Cork ten days previously.


Armed with one bag and £350, I said goodbye to my father, who dropped me to the airport.


Even though he was less than satisfied that I didn't have a return ticket from Jersey, Channel Islands or a job to start the following Monday, he helped me take my bag out of the boot.


What was to follow was the same departing speech I would hear for the next thirteen years each time I was driven to the drop-off point outside Cork Airport.


“I won’t go in with you because, you know yourself, I’ll be all day parking. Do you have your passport? What time will you get there? Ring your Mother when you land. How long do you have to wait in Gatwick for? It doesn’t look too windy anyway. Did you manage to squash all those Taytos and tea bags into your luggage? Where’s your coat? Right, mind yourself.”



Living abroad was both a wonderful and sometimes lonely experience.


Along with being afforded great opportunities, I met lifelong friends from all over the world.


I also met my husband, Craig, who is originally from South Africa.



In April 2015, we welcomed our baby girl into our family.


At this point, we were living in Guernsey. The time had come to make a decision: where were we going to settle with this tiny human? We made plans to move to Ireland that August. We would settle in Cork, my home.


Being from two different countries, Craig and I considered both Ireland and South Africa as possible places to settle down.


Having our daughter, Saoirse, proved to be a huge motivation to put down roots.


We decided Ireland was the best option.



A move to Ireland would call a halt to the endless phonetic spelling of Saoirse’s name.


Of course, this was a mere tertiary reason in our decision making process. Saoirse would grow up around family in Cork and we would have some additional support we were lacking while living abroad.


We had support of friends, but there's nothing quite like family.


Primary and secondary school education in Ireland would be more affordable than living abroad.


We would have a better opportunity to purchase our own house which was not a viable option while living in the Channel Islands.





Ireland was at the tail end of recession.


Job opportunities were improving, particularly in the finance sector in which we were both previously employed.


Yes, personal tax rates in Ireland are high and the band thresholds were lower than other countries but when we compared the “pro’s and cons”, on paper, moving to Ireland was a ‘no brainer’.


What I wasn’t prepared for was the loneliness that would ensue once the excitement of returning home had died down.


Thirteen years is a long time.



Friends had moved on.


I was a different person to the young woman who had left Cork in 2003.


I felt alone in my own home.


When I had emigrated in 2003, I was prepared for loneliness.


I knew that I wouldn’t have any friends and that I would have to build a new life abroad.


Naively, I assumed that once I returned to Ireland, it would be easier.



The reality was that I was acquainted with people but I really didn't have many friends.


I would have to draw on my experiences from living abroad, get out there and try to make friends.


This is easier said than done because there is no platonic dating website to upload one’s details and friendship requirements when in one’s thirties.


I would have to join groups and attend activities.


Baby in tow, I went to a plethora of baby and toddler events.


I hated the vast majority of them because, I confess, I was not very interested in chatting about parenting, but I met a few great people who I started to form friendships with.


I also found “The Cork Mini Music Club”, which is a wonderful toddler music group that Saoirse and I skip along to each Thursday morning.



An element that is unique to Irish society is its sense of community.


In small villages and towns across Ireland, people volunteer in clubs and societies at local level.


I was determined to infiltrate one of these organisations.


Among the boxes that had been shipped from Guernsey lay my flute.


I can play badly so I thought I would ask if I could join The Blarney Brass and Reed Band in an attempt to socialise with people who lived in our new neighbourhood and to improve my flute playing.


I explained my musical incompetence to the conductor and he was very welcoming, as were the real musicians in the band who are extremely talented.


I’ve noticed since I moved home that people who live in Ireland, whether born here or who have emigrated here themselves, are willing to give others a chance.


I also began to work as a feature writer – a complete 180 degree turn from my work in finance. It is proving to be quite an adventure.



Since moving home, Saoirse has picked up some words as Gaeilge. As has Craig.


Not a day goes by but Craig returns home asking what a certain colloquialism he overheard means. What’s a beor, a skobe, a langer?


Why do people say “so” at the end of each sentence?


Why do people keep calling me Timmy – C’mere Timmy?”


Craig, they’re saying “Come here to me”.



You know, it’s okay to admit that you are lonely.


There is nothing to be ashamed in admitting that you feel alone.


You’re not moaning. You’re simply being honest.


Loneliness is part of the ebb and flow of life and of parenthood.


There are practical things we can do to help ease loneliness and it can diminish with time.



The most important thing to do, first of all, is to be kind to yourself. You're doing the best job you can and that is enough xxx

Irene Halpin Long lives in Blarney, County Cork with her beautiful daughter and, rather tall, husband. She is a freelance writer and aspiring novelist. Her blog “Her voice from the kitchen window” chronicles her voice since returning to Ireland in 2015, along with the voices of those she meets and interviews who impact the society in which we all live.
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