Limerick parents face their 12th Christmas without their children

Anne Sheridan


Anne Sheridan

To Australia, with love: Janet and Eugene Benns pictured at home with their daughter's teddy as they face one more Christmas without being with all their children and grandchildren. Picture: Brian Arthur/Press 22
THE anxious wait to be reunited is nearly over.

THE anxious wait to be reunited is nearly over.

Limerick parents who have been separated from their four children and four grandchildren by nearly 10,000 miles for over a decade soon hope to move to Australia to be with them for the rest of their lives.

After 12 years of not spending Christmas together with all their children, Janet and Eugene Bennis, from Granville Park in the city, are finally close to making their dream move Down Under to live.

The couple have sold their house, which thankfully was not in negative equity, and hope their visas will arrive in February, after they applied for them last April.

The couple will have to pay Aus $86,000 (around €57,000) once their visas get the green light. “It is very, very exciting, but it’s also a very emotional time, and it’s tough to leave your home and life of 32 years. It’s a scary move when you’re in your fifties. But it has to work; there is no coming back from this,” Janet, 53, told the Limerick Leader.

Her children will also be helping them with the financial side of their move, but Janet said: “Two of them are in college. They are all making their own way in life, and don’t have pockets of gold either.”

To date they have paid $5,000 between them for the visas, and said once successful, they can pay $43,000 upfront, and the remainder in two years once they move to Brisbane, where all their children are now living.

They will sign off on the sale of their house this Tuesday, and the new owner has allowed them to stay in their home of more than three decades for the month of January. They will then move in with relatives in February as they face the anxious wait to get their visas.

The couple previously entered the Supermac’s & Ryan Tubridy Bring Them Home’ competition to be reunited with their children, and grand-children last Christmas, but sadly it was not to be.

“We’re getting older and you feel it [the loneliness] as the years go on. When the kids were here it was like living in a railway station or an airport, there were so many of their friends about. But now it’s very hard going home to an empty house. It really is like a grieving process. You get up in the morning and do what you have to do but you’re just waiting for the Skype calls.

“We live every night and morning for their calls. We are so lonesome without them and miss them so much it tears at our heart constantly.”

However, the Facebook page they opened for the competition is still going strong, amassing nearly 5,000 fans and she has been urged to keep it going as her personal online diary as they prepare for the move.

Her husband, Eugene, 59, has not worked since the closure of Dell some years ago, but hopes to return to work again, while Janet finished up work in the Allegro cafe in the University of Limerick last Friday, after two and a half years there.

Living in Brisbane are their daughter Jennifer, 30, who is now married with two young daughters, Saoirse, age four and Teegan, age two; son Eoin, 29, who is engaged and has a two-year old daughter Isabelle, and Alexia, who is less than a year old; daughter Claire, 26, and son Cian, 24.

Two of their children are married to two siblings, and between them they have bought a home in Brisbane that the parents can also move into.

“We still have a good life here but we are looking forward to moving on to the next chapter. We just dreamed of this 18 months ago, but we’re put it into action. The time is right to do this move. We will never have a mortgage again, and that financial release is unbelievable,” she said.

The couple’s journey is due to be featured in an upcoming TV3 documentary about emigration.

In recent months, the couple have created their own ‘bucket list’ of places they want to see around Ireland, in case they never return as the costs are so prohibitive.

After hearing their story on the Marian Finucane show, Ace Removals offered the cover the costs of their move to Australia.