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Stormont crisis: NI young people turn their lives around

By Hannah Gay & Erinn Kerr

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  • Stormont stalemate

Northern Ireland's politicians have been stuck in a stalemate for exactly two years.

But beyond the gates of Stormont, young people have been pushing on with their lives.

Many will have started their first job, finished their degree or passed their driving test but for some the achievements were against the odds.

In a recent survey carried out by the British Council, just 2% of 18-30 year old respondents in NI said they had complete faith in their political institutions.

And it doesn't look like the two main parties - the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin - are set to resolve their issues any time soon.

They say a week is a long time in politics, but two years can change a young persons' life.

image copyrightBullhouse Brewery
image captionWilliam Mayne is 26 and from Newtownards

In the last two years, William Mayne has gone from full-time office worker to business owner.

The 26 year old from Newtownards in County Down says that although it was a big jump setting up Bullhouse Brewery, he hasn't looked back.

"The corporate life was not for me," he told BBC News NI.

"I now work 10 hour days and often feel guilty when I'm not working but my job is more fulfilling and rewarding".

However, William says the Stormont deadlock has been problematic for business.

"Northern Ireland is one of the worst places to start a brewing business because of licensing legislation," he explains.

"There was a bill going through Stormont in 2016 which would liberalise licensing law and allow breweries to sell more, but then Stormont collapsed."

'Direct rule would be better'

In spite of little legislation progress, William has big hopes for his brewery.

"I would love to set up a restaurant, where Bullhouse beer can be sold," he said.

When it comes to politics, he is less hopeful.

"It is the system that is the problem - unless the system changes at its core we will see no change."

"Direct rule would be better at the moment".

image copyrightBenefit
image captionKate is 20 and from Cookstown

In the last two years, Kate Grant has launched a successful international modelling career, becoming Northern Ireland's first model with Down's syndrome.

In January 2017, Kate was a pupil at Sperrinview special school in Dungannon, County Tyrone, with big dreams.

She wasn't going to let her condition hold her back but her efforts to get recognised as a model seemed to be falling on deaf ears.

Fast forward to January 2019 and Kate is an ambassador for a cosmetics giant, has sat on the This Morning sofa, been a magazine cover star and walked the runway.

'Exuberance for life'

She was given her first opportunity to shine in October 2017, when she became the first model with Down's syndrome to model at Belfast Fashion Week.

Kate's mum Deirdre said she could never have foreseen that Kate would "achieve so much in such a short time".

Commenting on the deadlock at Stormont, Deirdre suggests Kate could help parties find "common ground".

"Kate's infectious spirit and exuberance for life would neutralise the differences of opinions in any room at Stormont," said Deirdre.

"She has a natural ability to bring people together and bring out the best in them - one could only hope."

image copyrightLeighann Hickinson
image captionLeighann Hickinson is 24 and from Coleraine

In January 2017, Leighann Hickinson from County Antrim was in recovery from a brain tumour which was diagnosed in 2015.

She lost her hair as a result of the treatment and her weight had fluctuated, causing her to lose confidence in herself.

"I was living at home with my mum and dad in Coleraine after having to leave university in Dundee," she said.

"I wasn't socialising much because I was worried about my appearance."

Leighann was also not working because she was exhausted needed to have regular scans to keep an eye on her recovery.

'Completely relieved'

Two years later, she has made it back to university full time and work part time.

She is studying to become a social worker and has moved out of her home in Coleraine and into halls of residence.

She also takes part in a cross-fit class specifically for young people recovering from cancer.

"I'm feeling so much better - I go out more with friends now and I am in a relationship, something I couldn't have imagined in January 2017," she said.

"You never feel completely relieved because you always have the fear of relapsing but compared to 2017 I have come so far."

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