Signs made with love and excited hands were held aloft for family returning home for Christmas at Cork Airport, many coming back for the first time in years.
Ciara Murray waited with her family for her son Rian and his wife Kerry, who have not been home in eight long years.
Rian’s return is the highlight of Christmas for his young sisters.
“They’re not even talking about Santa Claus. It’s all about their brother coming home,” Ms Murray said.
“It’s very exciting. They haven’t been home in eight years so it will be great to see them."
Michael Ryan was greeted at the airport by his family and a five-week-old puppy.
It is his first time home from Melbourne in almost four years.
Covid prevented a return trip any sooner.
“I didn’t expect it to take quite so long but we made it here eventually and it’s great to be back,” Mr Ryan said.
“It’s been a long road. There’s been a big human toll to everything. But I’m just very grateful to have gotten here eventually and I’m so excited to see the family again.”
Eoin Shiel returned home from New Zealand for the first time in three years.
As New Zealand has closed its borders for most international travel, his return is open-ended.
“It’s pretty good [to be back] except for the weather! It’s very nice to see my parents and it’s going to be nice to see my family. I’m looking forward to seeing my granny and granddad,” he said.
But there were not only tears of joy at Cork Airport.
Jim Healy’s son-in-law was turned away from Luton airport and he had to return alone to his home in Bedford without his wife and child.
Mr Healy’s daughter, Rose Mahmoud, and her son Oisín, were allowed to board the plane on their Irish passports. But Luton airport declined to accept her husband’s EU travel card or his Bangladeshi passport and would not take their marriage certificate into account, Mrs Mahmoud said.
“My mum’s unwell,” Mrs Mahmoud said. “This might be her last Christmas and she said the only thing she wanted was to spend time with her grandson and for us all to be together.
“We’ll try to get my husband on another flight but we already had to get a loan to pay for this, it was €800 just for the flights.
“We were told Ireland no longer accepts EU travel cards but I saw no mention of that on any website.
“He had to return on the train to Bedford alone and in tears.”
Visibly upset, Mr Healy said: “My wife has cancer. She’s only seen her grandson once for a few hours because she was in hospital when they came to visit over the summer. Now my son-in-law has been turned away from the airport. She wanted us all to be together.”