'I'm still a long way from where I'd like to be'


CASE STUDY: UNIVERSITY GRADUATE:PADDY DUFFY may lack employment opportunities, but he doesn’t lack ambition. “I’d quite like to be Clive James, with my daily radio slot, a TV show on weekends and a column for the Guardian. That wouldn’t be bad,” he says, with a grin.

For now, though, the 26-year-old has to settle with living at home with his parents in Lifford, Co Donegal.

Since graduating with an Arts degree from NUI Galway a few years ago, he’s had to adjust to lowered expectations.

Work has mainly been in snatches, often working for nothing to get a foot in the door or grabbing some experience, but with little meaningful paid employment.

“For a while you think you might be on the verge of something, but it dries up. Everyone is tightening their belts, so staff writing and consultancy basically went out the window, and it seemed media opportunities were seizing up too,” Duffy says.

“There are times I feel like the Ronnie Corbett character in Sorry!where a 40-something is still living at home . . . but my family are very supportive and I’m always busy with different things.”

Duffy is a live-wire, involved in a blur of projects, ranging from youth work to radio to broadcasting and writing. He’s a big believer in creating your own opportunities. Making it shouldn’t be easy, he says, but it shouldn’t be impossible either.

He feels young people are sometimes taken advantage of by employers who know there is a never-ending stream of people looking to do an internship or simply get some experience. “I just hope their creativity and talent won’t be exasperated by a country that couldn’t care less. And how long will they be expected to work for free in the name of the getting their foot in the door?” he says.

On those occasions where Duffy has got short-term work, much of his time has been spent trying to line something up for around the corner.

“You spend half your time working, the other half working on figuring out what you’ll work at next, and all the time panicking,” Duffy says.

Despite everything, he considers himself more fortunate than most.

He is relentlessly upbeat. And he’s about to take up a three-month contact working on a quiz show for BBC Northern Ireland.

“Ultimately I’ve been very lucky with the opportunities I’ve had throughout my life. I’m starting a new job in Belfast in a few weeks, so in a way it feels like the hard slog is paying off, but I’m still a long way from where I’d like to be all the same.”