Diaspora Minister Joe McHugh has said the government needs to be honest with emigrants about their prospects on returning to Ireland rather than offering them an open invitation to come back.

The previous government created the HomeToWork social media and poster campaign over Christmas as part of Fine Gael’s commitment to attract 70,000 Irish emigrants back by 2020.

But this week McHugh said Ireland needed to be “more targeted in attracting people back” as there would not be jobs for all.

He said in an interview in The Irish Times, “Do we just ask them to come back and everything will be grand? I think we need to be honest about the barriers that are there, and try to address them.”

An interdepartmental working group on diaspora affairs, chaired by the minister, is examining issues including the high cost of car and health insurance, and difficulties applying for mortgages or planning permission, which have been identified as deterrents for emigrants who want to return.

The minister said gaps were emerging in certain sectors such as science and engineering, and people with the relevant skills were the ones Ireland needed to attract home.

He said the majority of Irish people who emigrated in recent times were highly educated and highly skilled, and they should be asked “what their wants and needs are” if they were looking to move home.