Politics played a big part in Clare and John Duffin’s move from England to Co Louth this year. “Johnson and Brexit were very much a factor to my mind,” says Welsh-native Clare of the move with her husband, who is originally from Belfast. “We were devastated by the Brexit outcome because we are both very much European. We wanted to remain in Europe and we were strong remainers.”
The Duffins’ move back to Ireland mirrors the recent trend of increased interest among Irish emigrants in house-hunting here.
Meeting in London in the 1980s, the Duffins brought up four children in Surrey. John built up and then sold a successful IT consultancy.
“John had been hankering to move back to Ireland for a number of years and I had resisted because we had four children in the UK,” says Clare. “But I have to say, Brexit and the Johnson government did Ireland a lot of favours. We were devastated by that vote and then it was compounded by this ‘Little Englander’ incompetent Johnson government.”
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We could never have afforded a house like this where we were living
“We took most of our holidays in Spain, France and Greece – we felt like Europeans,” says John. “I’ve never had an issue being Irish in London. I’ve never had anything untoward said to me, but after the Brexit vote, I did feel like I kind of wasn’t wanted. They were talking about changing the passports to blue and I was thinking, I’ll be keeping my Irish one, thanks very much.”
The Duffins took an around-Ireland trip before focusing their house search on the pretty seaside village of Blackrock, Co Louth. “It was almost like sticking a pin in the map, ‘Well, what’s halfway between Dublin and Belfast?’ I’d never heard of the place,” says John. Soon they found their six-bed, 3,500sq ft home on a third of an acre, about 200 metres from the beach. Easy access to Dublin and Belfast and their airports was another draw. They expect plenty of visitors when the time is right.
The Duffins say they are paying about half of what they would have paid in the southeast of England. “We could never have afforded a house like this where we were living,” says Clare. Covid-19 delayed a move that had been planned for April with the couple eventually arriving in July.
They are impressed by how Ireland has handled the pandemic. “There is so much more joined-up thinking and it is so much more organised,” says Clare.
“Where we lived in the UK was lovely, but the southeast of England is full of people. It is packed,” says John. “The sensation we get here is one of space. People take the time to talk to you. I loved working in London – don’t get me wrong, it’s a great buzz working there, but it is quite nice to slow down and take your time.”
Clare agrees: “It’s slower paced and it’s a lot more open and friendlier.”
Back in England, their move has seen a couple looking for more space buy their old home. “It’s been bought by what you might call a London ‘power couple’ who were living in a flat in Docklands. They got fed up with Covid and wanted the space.”