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'In 2013 there was optimism... but I don't think there is anything here for me now'

Case Study

Move: Thomas Maher

Student Thomas Maher (28) is planning to leave Northern Ireland next year to study at Salford University, and believes that life here has "got worse" in the last five years.

"In 2013 I think there was a little bit more optimism," said the Coleraine man.

"I don't think we ever really came out of recession - it has been rubbish.

"There are more people with less money and more food banks have sprung up.

"Coleraine is just empty shops and charity shops.

"I think the quality of education is very good, but there aren't enough jobs for graduates coming out of university with degrees.

"I have a friend with a Masters degree who is working in Spar.

"In my experience, if you aren't prepared to move away you could be stuck working in an industry you don't want to be in.

"Even Belfast is small, there aren't a lot of opportunities and a lot of people are fighting for what there is.

"I don't see myself in Northern Ireland in the future. I've got a place at Salford University to study journalism for a year.

"I don't think there is anything here for me."

Thomas also expressed his frustration about the political situation here.

"Now there's no government, so it has definitely got worse," he continued. "I think there needs to be more respect between the political parties - everyone has differences of opinion.

"They need to be more grown up - it's ironic that it's the young people who are saying this."

However, Thomas agrees that he is "lucky" to have experienced the benefits of the Good Friday Agreement.

"I never had to think about bombs or anything like that," he continued.

"I was able to enjoy growing up in Northern Ireland, rather than looking over my shoulder.

"I can remember my whole family going down to vote in favour of the Good Friday Agreement.

"There was a great momentum, and it changed my life growing up as I wasn't scared of anything.

"Growing up in Coleraine wasn't as bad as Belfast or Londonderry, but I'm glad I grew up after the Troubles.

"I was always aware of the positive effect that the Good Friday Agreement had on my life," he added.

Belfast Telegraph