EMOTIONS were running high in Shannon Airport this week as hundreds of loved ones flooded into the arrivals halls where they were greeted by teary siblings with open arms.
There was a feeling of anticipation and nerves in the air as parents from all over Limerick welcomed home their sons and daughters, whom they had not seen for as long as six years.
The fact that the 12.30pm London-Heathrow flight was more than an hour delayed did not ease some parents’ overwhelming excitement.
Conn and Caroline Fitzgerald, of Banogue, were delighted to see their daughter, Gillian, who is currently doing nursing in Kingston-Upon-Thames and has been in London for around six years.
They said they were delighted to see Gillian for the first time in three years.
“We’re sitting down here in Shannon Airport, waiting for our daughter Gillian to arrive. She hasn’t been home for more than three years, so it’s three years of Christmases and we’re waiting upon it now. We’re calm now, but when the moment comes we will get a little bit taken away, and that’s part of the parcel of the Christmas season. We are so proud of Gillian. She has got on very well since she went over. She has made great progress. We thought she wouldn’t stay there, but now I don’t think she will come home anymore.”
Hailing from the other side of Limerick, Corbally, the Kenihan family were waiting for their 38-year-old son, Brian, to come home to celebrate Christmas from Sydney, Australia.
Mum, Bridget Kenihan, the said this year’s holidays will help relieve her “loneliness”, since her two sons left Ireland for the southern hemisphere.
“My eldest son Brian is coming home from Sydney, and is bringing home his daughter Kyra - who I will see for the first time - and his wife Rhenu. The baby is just six-months-old now and I am dying to give her a hug.
“Brian was last home in Ireland in April when my mother passed away and was home for a week at the stage, but the time before that he hadn’t been home in probably four years. However, we had been over there before.”
She told the Limerick Leader that it can be “devastating”, but both Bridget and her husband Eddie are “proud” of their sons, who have succeeded in their careers in Australia.
“They are rooted there now. They have nothing to come home to now. But it is sad for us. I feel devastated at times with them being so far away. For the first few weeks and months, it felt like emptiness. I felt broken-hearted. And now there are grandchildren, it makes it more lonesome. The pride and happiness for my children never overcomes the loneliness, because lonesome is lonesome - we’re getting older and it’s just so sad to have them so far away. Hopefully it will be one of the most memorable Christmases ever, though,” Bridget said.
One well-travelled Newcastle West woman, who was waiting for her sister in the arrivals area, encouraged young people to travel abroad and to “explore new horizons”.
“I am waiting for my sister, Helen, is working as a nurse in St Anthony’s Hospital in London. The last time we met was on a holiday in Sri Lanka in September. But she is always a regular visitor coming home. We always spend Christmas together, with the family. When my mother was alive, she was a more regular visitor. But she still comes home and we are very close.
“I totally understand and know what the young people are going through these days. I was nursing out in Africa, in Zimbabwe, and in even over in Kuwait. I know what young people travelling abroad go through because it does get sad when you are nowhere near your family. But I returned to Ireland in 2006 and it was great being back home. But I do think it’s great to travel abroad. You become globalised and you open your horizons. And wherever you go, the Irish are always well-recognised,” she explained.
Just in the first few moments of his PhD in tuberculosis research, Shanegolden man, Daire Cantillon got off the London-Heathrow plane to greet a “proud” Dad, coming all the way from Brighton.
“I have been working extremely hard in my research and I absolutely love it. I would like to come back to Ireland when I finish up, but I think I will end up in France, working for the World Health Organisation, which is why I am learning French now. At the same time, I miss my family tremendously,” Daire said.