In the latest of our Northern Roots series, where we speak to people originally from Northern Ireland but currently living elsewhere, our interviewee is Cal Doherty.
1. Tell us about yourself. When did you leave Northern Ireland, and where did you go? What do you do now?
I’m originally from Portrush, now living in Konstancin-Jeziorna, a beautiful dormitory town south of Warsaw. In my teens and 20s, I lived in Edinburgh, Derry-Londonderry, then Belfast, with a brief sojourn in Boston in between.
I moved to London to become a recruitment consultant in 2008 – right at the start of the financial crash! It worked out; I set up and continue to lead a European head-hunting practice for my former firm.
I met and fell in love with my wife Żaneta in London. We have two boys: one aged 3, the other 7 months.
2. What do you think when you see the Northern Ireland of today, in the news and on social media?
I’m very proud to say where I’m from, and love the reaction to showing photos of home – especially of my native north coast. There’s always the inevitable question about how things are now, vis-à-vis the Troubles and after. I’m proud of the potential for reconciliation and progress.
Following the recent post-election pact (between the DUP and Conservative Party), it’s much harder to be positive, particularly as the DUP’s most high-profile policies are roundly mocked by friends in London, and even here in socially conservative Poland.
3. Are you hopeful for Northern Ireland’s future? Will Brexit make a difference?
I’m an ardent European. I can’t help feeling that we are turning away from something that is flawed but fixable, in the EU – in favour of future dependence on the increasingly unhinged and globally abhorrent policies of the US to boot.
I think Brexit looks already to be a massive headache in terms of the border policy. It’ll be a disaster for the UK, but particularly for Northern Ireland which has some of the most deprived areas of western Europe.
4. Do you think you will return to Northern Ireland? What could convince you to come back?
It’ll always be ‘home’, but I don’t think I’ll come back. I want my boys to grow up as Europeans and have the full rights and entitlements that go with that. There are so many other places I want to live, at least for a while. Poland has been an eye-opener.
5. What can Northern Ireland learn from the place you live now?
Given the fairly recent break from Communism here, to some extent Poles still have their own version of the ‘American Dream’. I admire that graft, innovation and determination.
6. If Northern Ireland had a president with sweeping powers, and it was you, what would you do?
I’d look to having a Northern Ireland poll for re-joining the EU separately. I’d also move our seat of government to Armagh: a more traditional setting, away from the limiting and historically divisive arena of Stormont.
7. What would you like to see more of on Northern Slant?
More on local sport and events, please. I’m enjoying the balance struck, the diversity of content and have shared with a few ex-pats here in Poland.
8. If you could ask Northern Ireland politicians (past or present) to dinner, who would they be? And why?
Edward Carson: to ask if he thought it was all going to plan, a hundred-odd years later.
Martin McGuinness: I’d like to ask what it took for a ‘freedom fighter’, from his own perspective, to turn towards a path of peace; and how he thought the ‘end game’ is going.
9. Do you have a favourite quote, or mantra?
“Forti Nihil Difficile.” (“To the brave, nothing is difficult.”) Since my mid-20s, I’ve always believed in attacking and seizing those chances that might pay off; and the larger the potential risk the greater the reward. So far, it’s worked out… barring the odd egregious haircut!
10. What’s your message for people back home?
Please stop voting for political parties who divide us. History is where we were; the future is what we collectively decide. In my experience, we are regarded all around the world with some degree of affection; I believe it’s because we’re generally perceived as open, communicative and fun-loving. Why can’t we replicate this to each other when at home?
Also published on Medium.