In such an uncertain climate, it’s perhaps no surprise that custom build homes have become an attractive prospect. They offer an alternative route to home ownership – a route that could be more accessible and affordable than the traditional options. And they offer opportunity to create that perfect home for you and your family’s needs from the ground up.

It isn’t for the faint hearted mind, a self-build can take months, sometimes years, the budget can spiral out of control and the value of your property could be significantly lower than the cost to build.

It’s risky, for some too risky, but for a growing minority on this Island, who I’m conversing with and listening to, it’s a risk worth taking as they promote the concept of a New and United Ireland.

Admittedly stepping outside the comfort of our echo chamber has proved to be quite the experience for this non-persuadable loyalist but I’m glad I did and I want to share with you what I have learned:

Arguing that we have a health service free at the point of use, a welfare system intended to protect and support our most vulnerable and a free education system producing some of the highest-achieving primary school pupils in the world no longer stands up to scrutiny.

If we scratch beneath the surface, in the same fashion a surveyor would, you’ll find that, that same health service is starved of investment, burdened with an increase in demand and the standard of care compromised as a result. That welfare system, in a culture that denigrates and stigmatises applicants as idle, feckless and undeserving, is drowning in bureaucracy and taunts its applicants with a horribly long process. So long that some actually die in the queue. A system with the cruelest of sanctions and the lowest pension rates in Europe. And that 51% of pupils from working class backgrounds that are in receipt of free school meals will leave that same education system without a basic employability qualification to their name.

Northern Ireland has an abundance of potential, we’re the number one international investment location for U.S cybercrime firms, our capital is amongst the top ten tech cities of the future, we have a growing television and film industry and we are home to some of the world’s very best talent in sports, medicine and the arts. But simply setting the table and lighting a fragranced candle won’t, forever, make Northern Ireland’s place within the Union the more appealing of the two but rather focusing on strengthening its structural integrity, remedying those maintenance issues and sharing the wealth of our successes just might.

Julie-Anne Corr-Johnston

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