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Chief executive Declan Cunnane shares the special relationships in his life

By Kerry McKittrick

The 53-year-old is the new chief executive of Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke. He lives in Belfast with his wife Michele and their children Joe (19), Catherine (17) and Paddy (15).

My wife, Michele

Michele and I met years ago when she called into our offices to ask a colleague of mine for some tax advice — I’m a chartered accountant by trade. He was on holiday, so I swooped in and invited her out to dinner instead. We’ve been married now for 23 years and she still has the same accountant.

My children, Joe, Catherine and Paddy

Joe has now left home and is following my footsteps by studying economics and accountancy at Queen’s University, Belfast. Catherine is the musical one in the family and is working for her grade eight in clarinet and Paddy is studying for his GCSEs.

It’s lovely now because we’ve come out the other side from childhood and teenage temper tantrums.

Now we can all sit and have dinner together and converse and crack jokes with them.

It’s also great that one of them now drives and the next one is learning.

My parents, Paddy and Nellie

My dad was a bank manager and he passed away 16 years ago following a heart attack at the age of 63. I used to think that was a young age — until I spent a week cycling 300 km around Northern Ireland visiting Northern Ireland Chest, Heart and Stroke support groups.

I met people who had strokes and heart attacks in their teenage years on that trip. My mum worked as a teacher and passed away last year when she was well into her 80s.

I also have two brothers and a sister — Brendan, Noreen and Ray — I’m the oldest. We’re a close family, although we’re all scattered throughout Northern Ireland but we certainly keep in touch.

My best friend, Chris Leggett

I don’t think men tend to have best friends, but my oldest friend is Chris Leggett. We’ve known each other since we were four, went to primary school, grammar school and university together. Chris is a GP now and has four children who are the same age as mine and they’re all best friends now, so it’s nice that our friendship is filtering down for the next generation.

My mentor, Andrew Dougal

Andrew Dougal was the chief executive here for 32 years and is legendary within the voluntary sector. He has been very good to me during the time that I worked with him and he really passed on his knowledge.

Person I go to for advice

I have a lot of close friends that I’ve known for years and years and I’ll go to them. The other thing is when you have three teenage kids nothing you ever do will escape criticism. Even if I wanted to do something like change the car I would have to run it past them first — they have an opinion on everything.

My celebrity crush

Amy Willerton was Miss Universe GB, but the reason I’m choosing her is that I feature on her Instagram page.

She was on a bike beside me when we were on holiday in Portugal last year and took a selfie that had me in it. The kids then all met her and think she’s wonderful.

Fantasy dinner party

First of all I would ask Michael Deane to do the cooking, and my first guests would be Bill Gates and Warren Buffet.

I’m fascinated that these two men came from nothing and ended up being the two richest men in the world and then the two biggest philanthropists in the world.

I’d also like Sean Lock to keep the mood light and Sam Smith to provide the background music.

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