The West

Mixed fortunes for Irish workers
Mixed fortunes for Irish workers

For Ireland's economic refugees, WA is regarded as a land of golden opportunities.

Forced to leave Ireland amid high unemployment and tough austerity measures, young workers and families are joining the mass exodus in record numbers.

But while many are revelling in new-found opportunities, others have not been so lucky.

The Claddagh Association of WA welfare group has reported a 35 per cent increase in the number of Irish people seeking assistance, with many struggling to find accommodation or suffering from isolation and depression.

The group also offers support for families in Ireland after the sudden death of a child overseas, of which there have been six in WA over the past 12 months.

They include 24-year-old Emma Healy, who died in car rollover in Exmouth in September, and 28-year-old Martin Costigan, who drowned off Scarborough Beach in January.

For the thousands who work in regional areas - a requirement for working holiday-makers wanting to apply for a second 12-month visa - the unfamiliar environment poses a number of risks, according to Claddagh founder Tom Quinn.

Mr Quinn said in the past month he had visited two young men in hospital who had rolled quad bikes in regional WA.

Claddagh's treasurer Bill Ross said young workers were arriving with no money or travel insurance.

"They're unprepared, they think because of the mining boom they can get off a plane and get straight into a job but it isn't like that," Mr Ross said.

Such is the demand, the association has recently been granted funding from the Irish Government to continue its work.

Karen Hennessy, who arrived from Dublin on a working holiday-maker visa with her husband Robert four years ago, formed a mothers' group for Irish women after giving birth to daughter Laoise.

"The biggest problem is the isolation, so we are here to make sure there is a support network for these families," Mrs Hennessy said.

'They think because of the mining boom they can get off a plane and get straight into a job but it isn't like that.'" Claddagh Association of WA treasurer *Bill Ross *

The West Australian

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