Hundreds of the working poor and the self-employed joined the unemployed in a 30m-long queue outside an international jobs fair in Cork yesterday.
The fair saw everyone from teenagers to men in their 50s lining up in the hope of finding a job overseas where they could use their skills and earn a decent salary.
The event, which one Canadian employer described as “depressing”, took place on the same day that Fine Gael and Labour held a press conference to mark their two years in power. Their event was named: ‘The Plan is Working.’
The Cork expo was offering jobs in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in sectors such as construction, engineering, financial and medical.
Many of those working said they were “barely keeping their heads above water” and that “they had no life here”. Some had young families while many more had just completed a degree or apprenticeship.
Joanne and Pat Kelleher from Banduff, Co Cork, are in their 40s and have a baby daughter. Pat works in manufacturing.
“The money is terrible. I’m working for nothing. We need to get out as we’re just living from day to day and can’t take it anymore. We’ve had years of austerity,” Pat said.
Joanne described the Irish economy as “goosed”. “We have no life here and we have no future here. We’re thinking of moving to Australia over Canada as the climate would be better. We just need a better future,” she said.
Two self-employed electricians from Wicklow, who didn’t want to be named as they are still in business, said they can’t pay their household bills. The two men in their 30s are in partnership.
“We’ve struggled and struggled but when will the struggling end? It is so quiet out there. And what else is there? We’re self-employed so we can’t get the dole or anything. We’re looking at friends who are in Australia, having a great time, and are managing to come home twice a year,” said one.
Many of those queuing for the expo had emigrated previously and then returned home.
Karl Cohalan from Limerick was in Australia until nine months ago. He has a degree in sales and marketing but couldn’t find work in his field in Ireland. Since his return, he’s been working part-time at Ballybunion Golf Club.
“There’s nothing really around. I’m thinking about Canada this time. Emigration doesn’t seem such an obstacle to me now, having done it before. I can’t stay around here not using my qualifications,” he said.
Jenny Meade from Youghal, Co Cork, has completed a carer course but can’t find work. Her sister Elaine finished school last June “and has been handing out CVs since”.
“It’s just so boring. I have nothing to do, no money. I can’t sit at home for ever,” she said.
Phillip Gault is one of the lucky ones. From Wicklow, he left Ireland for Saskatchewan, Canada, last July. Nine months later, he was behind the stand selling agricultural engineering jobs with Maple Farm Equipment. He’s working as an agricultural GPS consultant.
“I was so apprehensive going. I didn’t know anyone, I went into the unknown. I didn’t know if anyone would be there to meet me. Now I have so many friends, Irish, Canadians, other nationalities. I’m really happy,” he said.
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