Population loss through outmigration is recognised as being a major contributor to rural social and economic decline internationally. Against this background, return migration assumes particular importance. Much research on return migration focuses on the economic and social reasons for return. This paper situates these factors within a transnational framework in which links are maintained by the migrant with compatriots in the destination area and the area of origin and return visits are usual. Ireland's migration history makes it an appropriate context for a study of return migration within a transnational framework. The research is based on a sample of 68 returned migrants who left and returned to a place of less than 1500 population in Ireland, in various years between 1947 and 2012. The results illustrate that positive images of growing up in Ireland and a sense of community, kept alive through transnational practices, were influential in stimulating return but that the timing of the event was often facilitated by economic circumstances in Ireland. Contributions were made to local social and economic sustainability but tensions were also present, arising from a need for re-adaptation by the returnees and the communities to which they returned.