Emmett Devlin, a second-generation New Zealander, swam against an age-old tide of Irish migration when he and his wife Trish decided to settle in Ireland 11 years ago.
‘We were very unsettled in New Zealand but we had such a lovely time on holiday in Ireland in 2000, visiting family and so on, that we decided to have a go at living there,’ he says.
Emmett, Trish and their son Joe are back here on a month-long holiday visiting friends and relations and taking in the Rugby World Cup. The family had a reunion in Dunedin the day before the Ireland v Italy game. The town was abuzz with World Cup fever and the atmosphere and the new stadium were fabulous, he says.
Both Emmett’s parents were Irish, his mother Bridget Kearney from Portglenone in Co Antrim and his father from Arboe on the shores of Lough Neagh in Tyrone. They had emigrated to New Zealand in the 1920s, while they were in their twenties.
‘My mother arrived in Wellington on the day that Mother Mary Aubert was buried,’ he says. ‘Mum thought she had arrived in a very devout country.’
After the holiday in April 2000, Emmett returned a few months later. He had no luck finding work in the north but landed a council job after a move to Dublin. Trish, Joe and daughter Siobhan later joined him. The family home is now in Monasterevin in Co Kildare, 40 minutes drive from Dublin.
Emmett was raised in Dunedin and says the climate and landscapes of Ireland remind him of home. ‘The rolling hills of Balclutha and south of Auckland are very like those of County Down. The climate of Dublin too is very similar to that of Dunedin’s, although Ireland’s summer weather is not as reliable.’
The collapse of the Celtic tiger highlights some big political differences from New Zealand. ‘People were being loaned exorbitant amounts and the regulator did nothing. Neither did the government. In fact, because of their tax incentives and other policies, they were encouraging it.’
A bailout bill of €34 billion is making life extremely tough for Irish taxpayers, particularly young homeowners. ‘They might have bought their properties at the height of the boom and taken out loans of 100% or even 110%. Now the value of those properties has halved, but they still owe the money so they’ve got negative equity. If they’ve lost their jobs as well they’re in an extremely dire situation.’
After the semi-final on 16 October, Emmett will head back to Ireland. The Irish are now out of the tournament but, having lived in Ireland and New Zealand, who would he have supported if they’d met in the final?
‘I think the All Blacks,’ he says. Then, after a pause, ‘No, not, “I think”. Definitely.’
In other news:
- Have a listen to Oliver Lee’s radio show Ireland Calling – he kindly gave O’Kiwi a mention. The programme also plays on Wellington’s Access Radio and Christchurch’s Plains FM.
- Kenny’s bookshop in Galway, one of Ireland’s biggest booksellers, contacted O’Kiwi and asked for a link to their store. No problem!