The scenes at airports in Ireland right now are familiar, with thousands of emotional reunions. What about the goodbyes?Photocall

The scenes at airports in Ireland around Christmas time are heartwarmingly familiar, with thousands of emotional reunions as families gather at the most blessed time of year.

The same cameras that catch the emotional moments will be nowhere to be seen in early January when the laughter will have turned to tears and farewells will be the order of the day.

The departing emigrants will be bound for Sydney, San Francisco, London, Toronto, New York and many other destinations. The Irish seed is once again well scattered, although less than a few years ago.

What is amazing is how little times have changed. You could have witnessed the same farewell scenes anytime in the last 50 years since travel back home became a real possibility.

Before that, of course, there would have been the American wake, when the person leaving was never to be seen again and family and friends gathered for a final heartbreaking goodbye.

Despite all the modern nostrums about progress and bright brand new days, there is instead nothing new.

When the latest recession hit Ireland the emigrant boat and plane provided the ballast to lift the country out of that recession.

The more who go away, the fewer left to find work which means it’s better off – at least from an employment point of view -- for those left behind. It is an immutable law of economics and political reality.

Despite bright new shiny theories and insistence that all has changed, it is really déjà vu all over again for every new Irish generation.

Stark but true, but the loss of brain power and potential is truly staggering, not to mention the cost to the taxpayer of Ireland for all that education, now benefiting any number of other countries.

Every 30 years the exodus trend manifests itself --1920s, 1950s, 1980s and 2010 -- with a relentless reality that underscores how little ever changes.

Of course emigration for those who want to leave is a question of choice, but for so many who depart it is an involuntary experience, not one they want to undergo.

There is an ambivalence about emigration in the Irish psyche, a sense on both sides of unease. The underlying issue is a recognition that the very act constitutes a fundamental failure of a society to sustain its own, to allow people born there to live their lives there if they wish.

There have been many wonderful changes for the better in Ireland, a far more tolerant political consensus, an excellent education system, a far greater sense of looking outward than in.

You will get crackpot theories that the island is too small to sustain so many which is nonsense, Manhattan has twice the population of Ireland in a 13.5 mile long island, for instance.

But the fundamental question remains as to what to make of a country that fails in its primary task of cherishing its people equally and giving all an opportunity.

So when we see those welcome homes we must realize they are bittersweet and temporary for most. Ireland still has to provide for its younger generations in a full and proper way.

Will it ever do so? That remains a fraught question.

The evidence for this generation is clear, and it will manifest itself in the departure gates of every Irish airport in January.

* Originally published in 2014.