Why do Irish youths still flock to the British capital? As the UK continues to be the destination of choice for Irish emigrants, many of whom end up in the British capital of London, Ireland Today asks: What urges so many young Irish professionals to flock to the British Isles each year?
By Lorna Keane
For Dubliner Sarah Murphy, 27, the decision to move to London three years ago was an obvious one given the lack of career opportunities in Ireland.
“After several internships, volunteering roles and zero-hours contracts, it became pretty clear I wasn’t going to get full time paid employment in Dublin”, she says.
“So I started applying for work in London and interview offers came back pretty swiftly – there’s just so much more opportunity here.”
Having completed an arts degree and subsequent masters, Sarah was looking for a career in the creative sphere, finally going down the route of Digital Marketing.
She points out the lack of positions available for arts graduates at home as opposed to the many more that London has to offer.
“In Ireland, on some of the arts jobs websites, I was lucky to see one new post a week”, she says.
“Here in London, there’s so many new job listings on a daily basis.”
According to the Higher Education Authority’s survey of graduate prospects, arts graduates are still struggling in Ireland with just 36 per cent finding employment after graduation.
The survey also found that a mere 32 per cent of those who obtained a degree in arts and humanities said their education was relevant to their employment, with 49 per cent admitting that it was irrelevant.
On the topic of salary, the survey reported arts and humanities to be the worst paid sector in Ireland with 29 per cent of graduates who secured employment within nine months earning less than €13,000 a year.
London has been a clear destination of choice for many arts graduates like Sarah who have benefitted from the contrastingly thriving creative job market in the British capital.
But the arts-lovers aren’t the only ones benefitting from London’s vast career opportunities.
Mark Keane, 30, originally from Kilkenny, moved to London three years ago to pursue a role in VT Design Engineering, but he says the career prospects weren’t the only thing to urge the move.
“I moved to London for a new challenge in both my career and personal life”, he says.
“I enjoy the fact that there are so many options to find new hobbies and explore different things.”
Sarah agrees that while the London lifestyle is very busy and fast-paced, it has a lot more to offer in terms of socialising.
“Even though it can get expensive, you’re never at a loose end for something to do in the evenings if you don’t want to go to the pub, which can sometimes seem like the only option in Dublin (besides the cinema perhaps)”, she says.
“The anonymity is also a blessing (and a curse!) … Although it can prove lonely at times, sometimes it’s nice to escape the two degrees of separation you experience living in Ireland.”
With such a long history of emigration to the capital, it’s unsurprising that both agree the English people to be mostly very welcoming towards the Irish.
“Most particularly enjoy our accent, which is fine,” says Mark.
“I’ve had a few bad experiences”, says Sarah.
“Namely when looking for a flat and one landlord replied saying ‘No animals, No Irish’… and the odd ‘Paddy-potato-type-jest’ many like to throw around, but by and large, they’re very welcoming and friendly.”
Both admitting that they miss home mostly for family and friends, Sarah adds: “I miss the proximity to the sea and the mountains that I get in Dublin and being able to drive around without congestion charges or fear of London traffic.
“I’ve become a lot more parochial funnily enough since being in London and very rarely leave my borough because taking public transport or being central is such a pain.”
What advice would they offer to Irish young people contemplating a move to London?
“Prepare yourself not to like London at first and give yourself time to adjust to the busy lifestyle here”, says Mark.
“Get a job first”, says Sarah. “It’s very expensive and you do bleed money rapidly just on living expenses. Give it a few months to get into a rhythm – it can be pretty daunting at first, but it’s definitely worth the often lonely wait.”