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  1. MPs spotted Civil Rights ‘bandwagon' in 1968 and scrambled aboard

    In June The Irish News published my letter making the point that the Caledon ‘squat’ by Austin Currie, was a seed that fell on ‘well prepared ‘Civil Rights’ ground in the Dungannon area. Ground readied by the Dungannon Homeless Citizen’s League, Dr Con McCluskey, his wife  Patricia, the Campaign for Social Justice, Austin Currie and the independent councillors, who supported the McCluskeys.

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Property: Five top tips for being a happier renter

Property: Five top tips for being a happier renter

Renting can sometimes feel frustrating - here's how to make the most of it   Whether you’re a fully-fledged member of Generation Rent, or a family for whom the property ladder is still a step out of reach, renting can sometimes feel frustrating. It’s your home - except, well, it’s not really, is it? Somebody else is the boss of it, which - while there are some pros to this - means there are plenty of less-than -deal cons, too. But, as somebody who’s been renting for two decades, I’ve learnt (often the hard way) that there are certain things you can do to help make living as a rent-paying tenant the best it can possibly be. Here are my five top tips... BE ON GOOD TERMS WITH YOUR LANDLORD/LETTING AGENT When you’re looking for a place to rent, remember you’re vetting the people you’ll be renting with/from, as much as the property itself. Mutual trust and respect, and an ability to communicate, will count towards a lot. There might be times when things go wrong and need to be fixed, fast. A broken toilet/tap/boiler, for instance. The good thing is, where a plumbing disaster due to wear-and-tear or technical issues is concerned (or any similar scenario), your landlord will be picking up the bill. The sometimes not so good thing is, you’ll be relying on a third party to sort things out. Now, this doesn’t automatically mean you’ve got a headache on your hands, but it might be a bit of a nuisance - and you’ll be doing yourself a big favour if you get on good communication terms with your landlord/letting agent from day one, rather than waiting until something ‘goes wrong’ to make contact. STREAMLINE, STREAMLINE, STREAMLINE It’s often said that our European cousins are much better at the whole renting game than us, being far more likely to rent their ‘forever home’, while us UK renters might find ourselves moving a lot (I stopped counting at 13), and it sucks. The good thing though? You’ll get so sick of packing and unpacking and losing money to removal vans (and cramming all your worldly belongings into one small bedroom, if you’re sharing a house), you’ll reach a point where you just don’t care for ‘stuff’ any more. Marie Kondo ain’t got nothing on me: I saw the light after move number 11 and waved goodbye to clutter for good. Do yourself a favour and get strict about the ‘stuff’ you let into your life. The next move will be a lot easier and, without even really trying, you’ll be living a less consumerist lifestyle - and will have more money to spend on experiences (tick, tick, tick). GIVE YOURSELF REASONS TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE Live in a shared house? No matter how great your housemates are, there will be times when you desperately wish you could afford your own place. Plus, self-comparison is part of the human condition, and if there are moments of mild (or severe) despair, when you’re wondering how you’ve not managed to bag that mortgage yet, while everyone around you is upgrading their kitchen - you’re not alone. Until that day comes for you, though, you need to make the best of the situation you’re in now - and embracing life outside your four walls can play a big part in this. Make dates with friends, join a club, go for walks, volunteer in your local community (no seriously, try it). Your life will be richer, your mental wellbeing will benefit, and you’ll find yourself seething about coming home to an already-occupied sofa a lot less. MAKE YOUR BED KING You might not own the bed frame, or the walls around it - but that does not mean you don’t own the right to a decent night’s sleep. Good sleep is the foundation of so many thing (your health, your work performance, your overall zest for life and all the people in it) - so prioritise it and do your best to make it happen. Renting doesn’t have to mean putting up with a crap, wafer-thin mattress or not-quite-right bedding. If your landlord doesn’t feel the same way, save up and invest in the best mattress you can afford (it’ll be some of the best money you’ve ever spent), and a pillow you look forward to sinking your head into every night. Treat yourself to some fabulous bed linen too; as far as ‘home purchases’ go, you can pick up some great designs at reasonable prices. FIND WAYS TO GET PERSONAL One of the most frequently-cited phrases among us long-term renters: “I just want to be able to hang whatever pictures I want on the walls!” There’s a general assumption that landlords don’t want tenants to make their house too much of a home (by banging nails into walls, that sort of thing). Have you actually asked your landlord about this though? There’s no harm in asking.  

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