‘Everyone here has the same story – we were fed up with life in Ireland’

YOUNG Donegal people are heading to ‘Oz’ in their droves. You would be hard pressed to find a friend group or family who haven’t had to say some heart-breaking goodbyes in recent months.

The Donegal News spoke with four Donegal natives in their twenties who have recently decided to move down under to gain an insight into what is causing the mass emigration of this young generation.

The rising costs of living coupled with crippling rents are squeezing newly qualified professionals out of Dublin, and the promise of an exciting life in the sun is tempting those still working in Donegal to the Australian coast.


Marjorie Doherty (24) recently graduated from IT Sligo. She is currently on a career break from her job in Letterkenny University Hospital as a Medical Laboratory Aide. She also previously worked with Randox as a Research and Development Scientist.

Last month Marjorie moved to Brisbane, where she will be swapping her lab coat for a high vis, as she soon starts her new job driving a moxy truck.

“It’s very different from the lab but I wanted a wee change,” she laughed.

She said that she was motivated to move to Australia because she wanted to see more of the world and to live a different lifestyle.

The fun filled life can be quite costly on the Gold Coast but that’s fine because “the wages match”, Marjorie explained.

She told the Donegal News about the challenges over there in finding accommodation.

Prospective tenants need to be armed with references from previous landlords and copies of their recent payslips too.


“There could be hundreds of people looking at the same apartment throughout the day,” she added.

Marjorie moved away with her partner Caolan. Fortunately he had family members already living in Brisbane so they bunked with them.

They have since halted their apartment hunt as Marjorie’s employer has offered to foot her rent, as she is being transferred to Sydney for four months, “so that’s ideal,” she added.

She is loving her exciting new life ‘down under’ and has no plans of coming home any time soon. But what makes Australia even better is the growing Irish diaspora, she explained.

Amongst the droves of Donegal people packing up and heading to ‘Oz’ is Fiona Gallagher (25) and her partner Kevin, who are both fed up with the high rents and cost of living in Dublin.

“There were six of us in the one house and our rent was still really high and we were living nearly 30 minutes outside the city centre, which was bonkers,” Fiona explained.

“It has been a goal of ours to go to Australia for a long time, we just didn’t want to stay in Dublin anymore,” she said.

Fiona graduated from ATU Letterkenny as an Intellectual Disability Nurse at the height of the pandemic, since then she has been working in Dublin. She recently moved back home to Gaoth Dobhair to prepare for their big move in March.

“I was working up to 10 days in a row, doing 12 hour shifts, it was crazy. We just didn’t have any time to enjoy ourselves.

“You hear of nurses moving to Australia and working eight hour shifts, they have a proper work-life balance that we just don’t have here.

“Instead, we are working all the time and getting no reward for it,” she said.

Fiona explained how their wages in Ireland struggled to keep up with the constantly increasing cost of living.

“We will both be getting paid better in Australia for the work we do and we will be able to afford to do things other than just spending all of our money on rent,” she added.

Aoifa Harkin (25) is a newly qualified Primary Teacher. She was offered a permanent position in the school she was working in in Dublin, but turned it down and headed for Melbourne with her friend Meave who is also a teacher.

“We were leaving a high stress job that we just weren’t appreciated for and you’re not getting paid for.

“But here in Australia when you tell people you’re a teacher they look at you like you’re an angel,” she laughed.
Aoifa described the dire situation facing Dublin and how “there is no teachers left in Ireland”. In a bout of desperation her principal asked her if there was anything she could do to make her stay, but there wasn’t,

her heart was set on leaving.

“Being offered permanency was another push, thinking that that could be my life, being stuck in Dublin for the rest of my days.”

“Everyone here has the same story – we were fed up with life in Ireland,” she said.

She said the Irish community in Melbourne is massive. There are seven GAA clubs in Melbourne alone. Aoifa is starting with Padraig Pearses GAA club soon. “In our Whatsapp group there are 167 members, that’s girls alone,” she said.

There are plenty of GAA teams in Brisbane too. Ciaran McFadden (24) who hails from Falcarragh and recently won player of the year for his local team, Cloughaneely, now plays for East Celts GAA Club in Brisbane.

“Myself, Noel Sweeney, Lee O’Brien, Shane Ferry, Neil Kelly and Martin Ferry all play for the same team – all who have been a part of our senior team back home over the last few years,” Ciaran told the Donegal News.

For the last two years Ciaran was working as a Civil Engineer on the N56 in Glenties which he described as “ideal”.

But he was craving a change too, “a lot of people were on about moving over and I thought I may as well just go for it. Both the lifestyle and weather in Australia were also a huge deciding factor,” he said.

Ciaran is having a ball so far, he explained that his main challenges to date have been adjusting to the warm weather and finding accommodation, a common theme amongst all of those who have emigrated.

Aoifa also massively struggled with finding accommodation. She moved to Melbourne in October and it took her months to find somewhere to live. She viewed over 80 apartments with little to no luck.

Herself and her friend Meave were bouncing from one Airbnb to another whilst on their hunt for a home, “if we had to stay in one more Airbnb we were going to pack up and go home,” she laughed.

Thankfully it’s a small world – her older brother who is still living in Donegal messaged a friend who is also living in Melbourne and ‘by fluke’ he was looking for new tenants to take on his existing lease.

Aoifa is delighted to find a bit of stability, as she starts her new job as a teacher soon. She explained that although her new rent is just as expensive as Dublin the “crazy” wages make up for it.

She told the Donegal News how substitute teachers can make up to $400 a day and if you are willing to travel outside of the cities to the designated regional areas, teachers can make up to $700 a day.

The weather also caught Aoifa by surprise. She arrived with a suitcase packed with sun dresses and bikinis, she was welcomed by cold and damp conditions that she had hoped to have left behind her in Donegal.

Luckily by Christmas she was in her bikini soaking up the rays on Bondi beach. But the beaches in Australia have nothing on the beaches at home, Aoifa added. She doesn’t just miss the white sandy beaches and

Atlantic waves but also her family and friends, especially her Granny.

She stressed that the biggest downside to living in Australia is how expensive it is to travel back home.

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere

and get access to our archive editions dating back to 2007
Every Thursday
Every Monday

Donegal News is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. St. Anne's Court, Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland