In this episode of What Northern Ireland Means to Me, we meet Rich Dale, who is an entrepreneur and environmentalist.
I was born and raised in Portadown. I’ve lived in Belfast for about 20 years. Generally see myself as Northern Irish, first. But beyond any other identities, whether it’s Irish or British or even dare I say it, European. Like many people, my hometown was a great place to grow up, but it didn’t offer the opportunities to flourish. So the reason I moved to Belfast was university and then I stayed here, established a business, established friends, and got involved in the music scene here.
For me, Northern Ireland means a lot of things, but the word that kind of strikes most is resilience. One of the main things I’ve inherited from my mom and my dad and they from their parents is just that tenacity and ability to keep going and to make things happen for themselves. I think whenever you look at Northern Ireland as a place there’s so much that can be taken negatively and there’s horrifying stories. But throughout all of that, the human stories, the connections and the inspiration and the ideas come to the fore. We’re an irrepressible people.
One particular story is my mom and dad’s business. My dad started teaching people to drive before there was even a driving test in Northern Ireland. And it was a campaigner for road safety and helped establish the sort of standards that were used to today. That was a business that started before the Troubles, and could quite easily have become a business that only dealt with one side of the community. But my dad wasn’t like that; he had an open spirit and he treated every person the same.
I followed in my parents’ footsteps and set up my own business quite early on. Our business started out helping companies work around problems using digital solutions. And then we turned that into a product that we could sell at a larger scale, at sort of national and international level. So that kind of the Hollywood’s overnight success story quickly vanished, in favour of the slog and keeping focused on your customers and your product, and always looking for better ways to do things.
I think Northern Ireland has huge potential, and by talking to each other and having normal, everyday people talking to each other and sharing their hopes and dreams for the place, it has huge potential. People want a better standard of living. Most people understand that we can live in a way that’s sustainable.
We need to create that critical mass. You see some of these polls that have started to come out. The percentages of people who now are deeply concerned about the environment and the climate, it’s very much in the majority now, it’s swung the other way. So, that there is a tipping point, and hopefully the intellectual tipping point happens before the actual ecological tipping point.
The whole concept of Northern Ireland in itself is as a construct within a construct. She didn’t need to exist for a hundred years. Where will humankind be in a hundred years and its relationship with the planet will speak a lot to where Northern Ireland is.
What Northern Ireland Means to Me is presented by Julia Paul and produced by Shared Future News, to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland, with funding from the Heritage Fund on behalf of the Northern Ireland Office.
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Images © Allan LEONARD