Two weeks ago, Irish airports were full of joyous homecoming scenes as emigrants returned from all over the world to spend the Christmas season in Ireland.

Now, however, the sad reality of those tens of thousands returning to Britain, the US, Canada, Australia, and many other destinations is evident.

Irish national broadcaster RTE caught the sad farewells at Knock Airport, but it was a scene repeated all over the country.

Many are emigrants by choice, but the sad reality is that there are huge numbers who would wish to stay in Ireland but have no option but to leave to find work.

“If there was work here we’d be back” said one person interviewed. Others accept they will never work in Ireland again.

Teary farewells at Ireland's airports as emigrants say goodbye after the Christmas break.Photocall Ireland