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What jobs Northern Ireland figures would choose if they could turn back clock

 

Headline news: David Blevins would have liked a career in the classroom
Headline news: David Blevins would have liked a career in the classroom
Creative talent: Kathryn Callaghan left marketing to become an artist
Helping others: Robbie Butler is UUP mental health spokesperson
Country road: Emma Heatherington wants to visit Nashville
Green fingers: politician Dolores Kelly loves gardening
True passion: Jim Mulholland (right) with Jean Christophe Novelli

By Judith Cole and Mairead Holland

A survey revealed last week that two out of three people in the UK would select a different career if they had the chance to start again. Here, Mairead Holland and Judith Cole ask a selection of local figures what they would really like to do.

‘Education is the way to change the world ... I would like to have been a teacher’

David Blevins is senior Ireland correspondent for Sky News. The 48-year-old, who lives in Portadown, is married to Ruth, and they have three children, Sarah (20), James (19) and Josh (14). He says:

It will be 23 years in February since I joined Sky News, but I still enjoy my job. I love the diversity and the variety, not knowing who you are going to be interviewing every day, whether it’s the Prime Minister or a £115m lottery winner.

Sometimes, as a journalist, we forget we are lucky to do what we do.

Saying that, the one thing I think I would be instead is a teacher. I am really passionate about it on a number of levels.

People who are in the news, or even those of us reporting the news, have an opportunity to shape public opinion for a moment in time, but a teacher has an opportunity to shape a life for the better completely. Education is the way to change the world for the better.

I would probably teach English — I am always amused by how other countries translate their signage into English and I love reading, books and poetry.

I really have faith in the next generation. Our generation isn’t making a great job of it now. I have been a school governor for 12 years, and because I believe so passionately in education, I am so frustrated that we haven’t had an education minister for two years.

I would also like to see an education system that benefits children of all abilities. For the past couple of years I have had a great opportunity to talk to media students in the US about the role of journalism in the peace process, and that has given me a little bit of a flavour of teaching.”

Dolores Kelly is SDLP MLA for Upper Bann. The 59-year-old lives in Aghagallon, near Lurgan, and is married to Eamon. The couple have four children, Caitriona (34), Fionnuala (32), Matthew (28) and Kathleen (25) and three grandchildren, Micheal (4), Liam (2) and Aoife (16 months). She says:

I have always enjoyed whatever work I have done, and I have always worked with people. I started off in a pub and restaurant when I was 15 and then worked in Wellworths after school. I was an occupational therapist in the mental health sector, and also managed a day centre for people with all types of disabilities. I went into local politics when I was 34.

The other thing I have always loved is gardening. It’s very therapeutic. I had a wee rockery at my granny’s house when I was young, and my great-aunts would have very green-fingered, so I must have inherited that.

I suppose if I hadn’t been able to do the job I am doing now, I would have enjoyed a career in horticulture and gardening. It probably would have kept me a lot fitter.

When you are working with people with mental health issues, it’s a long time before you see the results of your labours, whereas with a garden you very quickly see them.

Politics is a tough business and at times it can be very frustrating. There are easier ways to make a living.

If I had put the hours into my career in the health sector that I did in politics, I might have been better off.

If I have a few regrets, it’s that I didn’t have a better work-life balance when my children were young and I was a busy councillor. But at that time, no one even talked about such a thing!”

‘In my last job I longed to be an artist, so I took the plunge’

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Creative talent: Kathryn Callaghan left marketing to become an artist
 

Artist Kathryn Callaghan (41) lives in Lisbane with her husband and two children, Matthew (11) and Elizabeth (9). She says:

in my previous job I would have said that I would have done things differently. I’d done a degree in communications, advertising and marketing, and I worked in marketing and product development. But for a long time, for many years, I had a hankering for something more artistic. I sat at my desk trying to come up with ideas of how I could change things around, and I eventually did.

As a mature student I went back to studying, for an HND in fine art, at Belfast Met. It was an amazing course — I learned so much with the tutors, who were excellent. I was allowed to reduce my hours to part-time, and after a period of time I left my job completely.

I was very lucky that I had the support of my husband and family, and also my employers, who were very supportive in letting me cut down my hours to enable me to go to college, even though it had nothing to do with my job. I’ve always loved art. As a young child, it was my hobby.

My friends wanted to play with make-up or have a game of football, but I was into painting and drawing.

However, by the time I’d finished my A-levels I was actually sick of art — I had spent so much time in the art room in school — so instead of going to art college I did a different degree. But it was only after I got into employment that I thought, ‘Hold on a minute, I would love to go back to art’.

My job was artistic in its own way — I got to work with a graphic designer and be creative — but it just wasn’t the same as working on my own art.

I was thankful for my job,  enjoyed it and I liked the people I worked with, so I did wonder if I was being ungrateful to want to do something else. I had flexi hours and it was really quite good, but I had that itch for something else.

I started my career as an artist in 2013 and went full-time in 2015. To date, my art has mostly been painting animals, but now I’m moving into new things like landscapes.

At the start it was absolutely unbelievable that people wanted to buy my work, and I would text my family every time I sold something.

Other high points have been being able to be so flexible. My kids are in primary school and I’ve been able to attend all their events and accommodate their holidays. I just love the independence and flexibility.

Obviously, you have to develop your business and earn a wage, and there are times when I’m doing emails when it should be family time, but overall it has been wonderful.

My work is sold through my website, as well as private collectors and art galleries. I also work with interior designers and other trade sectors for both residential and commercial projects. I’ve worked with hotels, supplying paintings for their bedrooms and restaurants, which has been good for exposure of my work.

People from all around the world see it and have asked for commissions.”

‘Being a pilot would be a great way to see the world’

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Helping others: Robbie Butler is UUP mental health spokesperson
 

Robbie Butler (46) is a UUP MLA for Lagan Valley. He lives in Lisburn with his wife, Belinda, and two children, Robyn (20) and Adam (17). He says:

If I had to choose a career all over again, with hindsight I would be a pilot on long-distance, transatlantic flights. It would be a good way to travel and see the world, but I’m past that now and it’s something that’s not going to happen.

I still see my future in politics, although I have never felt as frustrated in my life as I feel now. There are health reforms and a suicide strategy that need to be rolled out, and we have a housing crisis, but with no government, nothing can be done.

If Stormont is not restored, I would probably seek out some sort of career in mental health or learning disability and go back and get qualifications. As mental health spokesperson for the party, it’s something I have developed a new and real interest in. If I was going to do something else, it would have to be something with added value — that is, helping people.

I have had quite a few jobs, including working as a prison officer and a firefighter for 16 years, but that chapter of my life is closed.

I am going to hang on in politics, so I can be part of the change when it comes.”

‘I started out by composing cheesy pop songs as a teen’

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Country road: Emma Heatherington wants to visit Nashville
 

Emma Heatherington (42) is an author from Donaghmore. She lives with her partner, Jim McKee, and five children, Jordyn (22), Jade (17), Dualta (17), Adam (16) and Sonny James (4). She says:

As an author, I am doing now what I have always wanted to do and have been for the last 10 years.

Looking back, if I hadn’t had my children so young, I would have liked to have gone to Nashville and been a songwriter — that has always intrigued me. It’s how I started writing in the first place, composing cheesy pop songs when I was a teenager.

There is a songwriter called Lori McKenna, and she writes songs from her home in America for some of the big stars, so never say never.

I have worked with Nathan Carter and Philomena Begley, ghostwriting their autobiographies, and I have a list of things to do, one of which is visiting Nashville and getting a first-hand sense of how it all works.

The past two years have been very good to me, but there are still things that I would like to achieve, such as seeing one of my books made into a film.

I have done the office job and worked under other people’s regimes. I had a job in event management with Dungannon and South Tyrone Borough Council before I left to start writing.

I loved it and made great friends, but I remember seeing novelist Cecelia Ahern on TV talking about her work. I thought, ‘That’s my dream’. It really inspired me and I told myself, ‘I am going to try this out’.”

‘Politics is tough ... there are easier ways to make a living’

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Green fingers: politician Dolores Kelly loves gardening
 

Dolores Kelly is SDLP MLA for Upper Bann. The 59-year-old lives in Aghagallon, near Lurgan, and is married to Eamon. The couple have four children, Caitriona (34), Fionnuala (32), Matthew (28) and Kathleen (25) and three grandchildren, Micheal (4), Liam (2) and Aoife (16 months). She says:

I have always enjoyed whatever work I have done, and I have always worked with people. I started off in a pub and restaurant when I was 15 and then worked in Wellworths after school. I was an occupational therapist in the mental health sector, and also managed a day centre for people with all types of disabilities. I went into local politics when I was 34.

The other thing I have always loved is gardening. It’s very therapeutic. I had a wee rockery at my granny’s house when I was young, and my great-aunts would have very green-fingered, so I must have inherited that.

I suppose if I hadn’t been able to do the job I am doing now, I would have enjoyed a career in horticulture and gardening. It probably would have kept me a lot fitter.

When you are working with people with mental health issues, it’s a long time before you see the results of your labours, whereas with a garden you very quickly see them.

Politics is a tough business and at times it can be very frustrating. There are easier ways to make a living.

If I had put the hours into my career in the health sector that I did in politics, I might have been better off.

If I have a few regrets, it’s that I didn’t have a better work-life balance when my children were young and I was a busy councillor. But at that time, no one even talked about such a thing!”

‘As a boy I had aspirations to be a fantastic footballer’

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True passion: Jim Mulholland (right) with Jean Christophe Novelli
 

Jim Mulholland (49) is executive head chef for the Novelli at City Quays restaurant at the AC Hotel in Belfast. He lives in Lisburn with his wife, Joanne, and son Luke (18). He says:

I've been a chef for 32 years, and I think it's been in my blood from day one. I grew up with a very strong cooking background - my grandmother was a fantastic cook who baked her own bread, and my mother was a great pastry cook.

We grew up in that environment where the family sat around the table together to eat, so it was all around me during my childhood, and it inspired my career path.

In terms of a career, I considered all aspects of catering, but deep down I always wanted to be a chef. I played football as a boy and had aspirations to be a fantastic footballer, but that didn't pan out. Right from school age it was catering that I was interested in.

I think everyone has aspirations to reach the top - chefs are a lot more passionate now than they were 20 or 30 years ago, I think because there are more opportunities. There was a chef working for me who's now working for Nathan Outlaw at The Capital Hotel in London - he's worked really hard at his career and is seeing the results.

The star restaurants are bringing young chefs in now. They're taking a real interest in helping them progress their careers, and there are more opportunities for young chefs. Of course, it's not an easy job - I remember saying to my father, 'This is very tough', but he said, 'Son, it's tough in every job, not just yours'.

There are tough days and big challenges, but then you go in the next day and something surprisingly good happens. For example, Jean Christophe (Novelli), who opened this restaurant in the AC Hotel in Belfast last year, might come over to the restaurant, and that really inspires you.

The best moment of my career so far is being chosen by Jean Christophe to be executive head chef for his restaurant. He was an idol of mine and I had always admired his work. He's a great role model.

We have a very good working relationship - we're very like-minded individuals and it was a great honour to be chosen for his first restaurant in Ireland.

Cheffing is a fantastic career, but unfortunately my son has no interest whatsoever and wants to be a writer.

He grew up surrounded by food, yet he has no ambitions in the field at all.

I've been teaching in college for 10 years, so I've seen the next generation coming through and there is a lot of great talent.

What do I say to them? I think you need goals and ambition, and you need to be focused and dedicated and give it 100%.

Being a chef is a passion - anybody can put on a set of whites, but to succeed you really do need passion."

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