ONE OF the few upsides of the pandemic has been the shift towards a healthier work-life balance, a shift that has seen the Fermanagh property market boom.
No longer chained to their city desks, scenic rural areas such as Fermanagh have become ever more attractive to young professionals seeking a better quality of life.
Which is exactly what attracted Emma and Jake DeSouza to the county. The couple may be familiar to many, having hit headlines in recent years after they took on the British Home Office in a legal campaign regarding Emma’s right to be accepted as an Irish cititzen in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement, thus allowing husband Jake to live in the North as the spouse of an Irish citizen.
With three large dogs and a yearning for the great outdoors, the couple had been looking for more space of their own when they found their dream home in east Fermanagh earlier this year.
“We started looking at moving out of the city, Fermanagh was not top of our list because it’s a little bit out of the way and we were thinking about accessibility,” Emma told the Herald.
“We went to view a house anyway, just to have a look at it because it was on the market. We fell in love immediately with the house and couldn’t believe how beautiful Fermanagh was.
“All of a sudden, we found ourselves then packing our bags and moving to Fermanagh, which was a surprise for my family back in Co Derry, and more of a surprise for us whenever we moved out here.
“Finally, after all these years I heard people talking on the periphery of places like Co Donegal and Co Fermanagh that can be quite isolated and don’t have great accessibility when it comes to transport, I realised all those things are very true once we got here.”
With Emma, a political commentator and widely-published journalist now writing for the Irish Times in Dublin, and Jake working from home, the couple have been encountering a pervasive problem more than familiar to locals here in the county. Infrastructure, or the lack thereof.
First off, there’s the roads and public transport.
“I was spoiled by living in cities my whole life, where I don’t even drive. I’m in a situation where I live in Co Fermanagh but I work in Dublin, so trying to access bus services to get to Dublin is a lot more difficult than in Belfast where there is a bus to Dublin on the hour every hour or half and hour,” said Emma.
“I would say that is less convenient, but it’s a trade off.”
Then there’s been our famous broadband speeds.
“When we moved here we realised we couldn’t just call up Virgin and get broadband. It’s been a real challenge getting Internet speeds that would suitable for us to do our jobs at home.
“In the end we put in a big satellite, which was quite expensive, but it’s still a 90 percent drop in the speeds we had.
“It’s made me think a lot about how challenging it must be for people living in rural Ireland, especially living here in the pandemic and working from home.”
Emma added: “It’s certainly something to think about, the economics of living in rural Ireland and the impact that has on families.”
However, despite the challenges, again like most locals, Emma and Jake believe it is all worth it to live in such a beautiful part of the world. The couple have been growing their own vegetables, getting out into nature, and now have family flocking down to soak in the beauty of their home.
“It’s been extraordinarily rewarding and beneficial to our well being,” said Emma.
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