In the latest of our Northern Roots series, where we speak to people originally from Northern Ireland but currently living elsewhere, our interviewee is Ciaran Fleming, from Craigavon, now in Sydney, Australia.
1. Tell us about yourself. When did you leave Northern Ireland, and where did you go? What do you do now?
I’m 28 from Craigavon. I left in Northern Ireland about 6 months after graduating from Queen’s University – heading to Boston with local consultancy firm First Derivatives in 2012. After 18 months there I moved back to Dublin and began working for a Fintech startup called Fenergo after a chance meeting with the CEO in the States. The ‘startup’ now employees over 500 people and I relocated to Sydney to help with our expansion in the Asia-Pacific region just over a year ago. I currently work as a Senior Product Consultant advising the largest banks in Australia as to the best uses of our software to meet their needs.
2. What do you think when you see the Northern Ireland of today, in the news and on social media?
It varies on a daily basis. The hype and vitriol that can be published on social media behind a curtain of anonymity is a dangerous, dangerous thing and a constant reminder that there are still an awful lot of people stuck in a tribal mindset. Having said that, it does provide a platform for more progressive political thinkers to influence and really engage with a younger generation of voters and that can only be a good thing. When you see the likes of Carl Frampton achieving such great things and being such a great ambassador for the country you can’t help but feel a sense of pride.
3. Are you hopeful for Northern Ireland’s future? Will Brexit make a difference?
Of course. The country has seen much worse times than this, and whilst the polarisation between communities seems to be increasing there are too many good people with too many bad memories to allow us to slip back into the darkest days of the past. Maybe that’s slightly romanticised but hope springs eternal.
Will Brexit make a difference? Most certainly. Whether that difference is for better or worse remains to be seen, but its impact really cannot be underestimated. Ultimately, as a staunch Remainer, I hope that Brexit will at least be the catalyst for real change in Northern Ireland. The propaganda and blatant lies that were pushed throughout the campaign are beginning to show and hopefully people will wake up to the reality that tribal politics does nothing but damage our country. No matter what the issue at hand is currently, if one side says white you can almost guarantee the other will say black. It’s crippling any chance of progress and the sooner it disappears, the better.
4. Do you think you will return to Northern Ireland? What could convince you to come back?
100%. I couldn’t be prouder of where I’m from and wouldn’t be the person I am today without the positive influence of the people with whom I grew up. Craigavon hasn’t had the best of reputations in the past, but it has always been welcoming to me and it is in reality where I see myself settling down in the future. In terms or employment opportunities, well-paid, interesting tech jobs, these are starting to emerge in Belfast but in the shorter term a commute to Dublin is looking more likely.
5. What can Northern Ireland learn from the place you live now?
Given that Australia has just held an opinion vote on the topic of same-sex marriage, that would be a good place to start. At a minimum, the people of the country should be given a voice rather than having to settle for the current abuse of Petitions of Concern.
6. If Northern Ireland had a president with sweeping powers, and it was you, what would you do?
Terrifying thought, having me in any position of power! I’d also abolish the concept of SPADs at Stormont completely and use that money for something useful. Integrated education for all and implementation of laws passed elsewhere in the UK that our devolved Assembly continue to block currently.
7. What would you like to see more of on Northern Slant?
More of the same.
8. If you could ask three Northern Ireland politicians (past or present) to dinner, who would they be? And why?
Two Longs – Sophie and Naomi – as well as John Hume in his pomp. They’re three of the most pragmatic political people N.I. has ever had and people I feel I could have genuine conversation with on issues that matter. I have no time for the divisive politics that most politicians nowadays encourage for their own gain. Whilst I would definitely disagree with Sophie on many issues, I’d still respect her opinions in that she actually thinks them through.
9. Do you have a favourite quote, or mantra?
“If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” is a pretty good one. I think that probably fits into my message for people at home too…
Also published on Medium.