The Christmas homecoming that was 15 years in the making

For some people, it was a 40-hour journey home to Ireland and for others, it was a 15-year one.

The Christmas homecoming that was 15 years in the making

(Picture, above: Joe and Kathleen McEvoy welcome home their son John, left, and daughter-in-law Nicole, centre, their grandson Damon, 4, and granddaughter Fiona, 3, who they are meeting for the first time. Also pictured are Marguerite Almond, John’s sister and her children Lauren 13, and James, 10. Picture: Moya Nolan)

John McEvoy, originally from Laois, was just one of the thousands of returning emigrants in Dublin Airport yesterday, but his journey most definitely took the longest.

His sister, Margeruite Almond, was overcome with emotion as she waited for her only sibling to come through the gates with his two children, whom she had never met.

“My brother John is coming home from Long Island, New York. It’ll be our first Christmas together in 15 years. He’s coming home with his wife and his two children. I haven’t seen them — I haven’t seen them ever.

“They’re three and four — Fiona and Damon McEvoy. I haven’t seen them ever. I’ve only seen them on Skype. It’s so emotional. Now I’ll get to hug them today and not let them go for a week,” said Margeruite.

Her own children, Lauren and James, were with her at the airport yesterday. They had never met their cousins either.

When John finally did walk through the sliding doors, his waiting family jumped over the barrier to embrace him.

“My entire family is here to welcome me, which I’m shocked at because I didn’t expect anybody to be here. I was walking out to go get a car to drive down to them. I had no clue, no clue,” John told the Irish Examiner.

“This will be my first Christmas home in 15 years. I’m just looking forward to spending time with my family — that’s it. I miss family, that’s the biggest thing,” he added.

While his son Damon was overwhelmed with the welcome, his daughter Fiona was off hugging her new cousin James.

Another returning emigrant, Richard McDonnell, was bringing his new girlfriend, Keri O’Callaghan, home to meet the family. The couple met thousands of miles away in Australia, despite living just a stone’s throw from each other in Dublin.

“We’ve come in from Melbourne, all the way through China, and then to Amsterdam, and now finally to Dublin. It took us 40 hours to get here, but we’re here. It’s been a hell of a trip.

“I came in with Keri, my girlfriend. We met in Australia but we literally live five minutes away from each other back here but now we finally get to meet the family. I haven’t been at home for Christmas in three years and this is her first time in two years,” said Richard.

Keri’s entire family was at the airport to welcome her home, carrying a large poster covered in photos of the young couple, but Richard’s family are not expecting him home, and he was heading off to land on their doorstep and surprise them. He emigrated in March 2015, but this last year was particularly tough.

“I’ve really been looking forward to coming home for a long time now, it’s been the hardest year of my life so far. I’m setting myself up over there with jobs, visas, trying to get registered as a plumber, literally just settling in,” he said.

“It’s just me and Keri living over there; we’ve no friends over there. All my friends are either in Perth or Dublin, so yeah, it’s been a tough year trying to get things up and going and it’s been hard to get home for this Christmas as well, but we made it and we’re just going to enjoy it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Christmas carols played out, welcoming people home as airport staff walked through the crowds carrying boxes of chocolates.

All around other reunions took place, such as Jason Creagh waiting for his aunt June Connolly Jameson, who emigrated to America in 1987, the year he was born.

Then there was Dympna Mannion and her Sligo family, waiting for it to become whole again, as her daughter Claire arrived in from New York.

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