The numbers emigrating from Ireland are completely exaggerated, a leading academic has claimed.

Prof James Wickham, director of the Employment Research Centre at Trinity College, said the number of 1,000 a week leaving Ireland was not correct, as many leaving were foreigners returning to their own country according to the Irish Times.

“During the election we were told every day how 1,000 Irish people were leaving the country every week. The only problem with that is that a substantial number of them are returning immigrants,” Professor Wickham.

However, his view clashes with official figures showing from the Central Statistics office who said that 27,700 of the people who left in the first four months last year were Irish born.

Prof Wickham said there was a very real danger of a “media, moral and public panic.”

“The rhetoric that is being used in the current discussion of this in the media is that of the emigrant wake like the 1950s. The emigration we are experiencing is much more like the emigration of the 1980s rather than the 1950s. The 1980s represented a turning point for Ireland, and many of these educated people returned in the 1990s bringing new skills and money,” he said.

“We should learn lessons from the recent mass emigration from Poland, when people were treated as traitors for leaving. This created dissatisfaction. But I’ve seen no sign of that in Ireland, which has a good record of welcoming back emigrants,” he said.

Prof Wickham it was not a  “brain drain” but “brain circulation,” meaning many returned home when times got better.

He also claimed “There has been a huge growth in so-called love miles, people following their girlfriend or boyfriend and living in their country,” he said.

Emigration should not be treated as an “unmitigated disaster” he said.

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