‘My overseas experience really stood to me when I moved home’

A recovering construction sector provided Brian Dempsey with the opportunity to move back to Dublin after 12 years in London

Brian Dempsey counted 66 cranes from his vantage point on roof of the Merrion Hotel in Dublin recently.

Brian Dempsey counted 66 cranes from his vantage point on roof of the Merrion Hotel in Dublin recently.

 

This article forms part of a new series for Irish Times Abroad on the opportunities worldwide (and in Ireland) for Irish construction workers. If you would like to share your own experience of moving abroad or returning home to work in construction, you can do so in our Irish Construction Workers and Emigration Survey.  

After 12 years in London, Brian Dempsey had had enough. The noise, congestion and general busyness of the city were starting to get to him. An electrician by trade, he had got a wealth of experience first as an electrician, then site manager and then project manager. He missed home, however, and last year he and his fiancée Charlotte decided it was time to move back to Dublin. He now works for mechanical and electrical consultant TBourke as a project manager.

Why did you leave Ireland?

I had been working for a small company near where I come from in Rathfarnham, but I was looking for a change and to get some more experience. So I left Dublin in 2004 for London. I looked online and at the advertisements and found work that way.

How did you find England?

London was very good. It has everything there you could want, but I was getting tired of it after 12 years. I’d had enough and wanted to come home. I missed home.

When did you come home to Ireland?

Five years after I arrived in England I met Charlotte, who is now my fiancée. She moved home first and then I followed last July. We are getting married at Easter. I moved back for her, but also because it was a realistic option. The jobs were there and the industry was improving. Just a few years ago it wasn’t like that.

Was it difficult to find work?

It wasn’t. I don’t know whether I was lucky or if it is a sign of the times, but experienced project managers are very sought-after – even electricians are very hard to get hold of as so many of them have gone to the US or New Zealand.

I’m very happy. The company I work for is the one I wanted to get into. I did a lot of research before coming home and, essentially, a friend of my fiancee’s father told me that T Bourke had a very good reputation in Ireland and was held in high regard. T Bourke also does the kind of high-end commercial projects that I wanted to work on.

Did your experience overseas help you in finding work here?

My experience stood to me. I definitely would not have got the type of experience here that I did there where I worked on lighting and store fit-out projects for such retailers as Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Cartier, Versace and Dolce and Gabbana, for example. Budgets are a lot bigger and the technology is more innovative. In boom times here, it may have been the same but those projects are everywhere in London. We have them here, but not on the same scale.

How does working here compare to where you were in England?

Expectations are unrealistic in London and over time people just burn out from working unsociable hours. In London it tends to be very formal and all by the book. Everybody goes by the book here too, but it is different. There, people tend to be very direct and to the point.

People are very professional here too, but the Irish mentality is different, people are more genuine and more approachable.

What are you working on now?

The Merrion Hotel is adding apartments so we are doing the lighting. It will be to a very high technical standard and very innovative. We are putting in a lot of lifts too.

Would you recommend going abroad for work?

I would. It opened my eyes and gave me fresh perspective. Two to three years is enough time to spend away though if you want to come back to Ireland.

What are your plans for the future?

I’ll be a project manager for the foreseeable future. I’d like to work my way up at T Bourke into a higher management role. I will stay in Dublin, buy a house and have a family.

What is your impression of the construction sector in Ireland?

There has been massive change in the past five years. I think the reputation Ireland’s construction sector has now is far better than it was a few years ago. The quality of the process is very stringent and far more regulated than it may have been in the past.

Now, or in the very near future, is a good time to come back. There are definitely opportunities in the sector. Last week we went up on the roof of the Merrion Hotel here and we could count 66 cranes on the skyline.

- In conversation with Rose Costello

This article forms part of a new series for Irish Times Abroad on the opportunities worldwide (and in Ireland) for Irish construction workers. If you would like to share your own experience of moving abroad or returning home to work in construction, you can do so in our Irish Construction Workers and Emigration Survey.