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‘Putting on a uniform does not make you immune to fear,’ former Garda chief says

Facing the centenary of the Garda Síochána, former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan believes the relationship the force has with the community, despite controversies, remains unique.

“Sometimes it can be very frustrating for onlookers, and indeed for people inside the organisation, the time it takes to deal with some of the issues.

“But working in partnership with the community will sustain us for the next hundred years. Despite all the perceived dysfunction, I think we compare very well,” she said in an interview with The Irish Times.

“We are appreciated more outside this jurisdiction than we are within it,” she said, mentioning the citations that come back when gardaí serve abroad in UN missions, or with Europol.

I wanted to do a lot, and I felt it was so badly needed. There was a real appetite for change, within the ordinary women and men

The relationship is based on foundations left by the first Garda commissioner, Michael Staines, who decided that the force should “succeed not by force of arms or numbers, but on their moral authority as servants of the people”.

Speaking to mark the centenary of the force, O’Sullivan said the quality of its members, and its relationship with the community, sets it apart internationally.

Following her resignation in 2017, O’Sullivan went to New York to work as assistant general secretary for safety and security for the United Nations, a position she left in 2021.

Appointed as Garda commissioner in 2014, the first woman to fill the role, O’Sullivan said she set about introducing “deep-rooted cultural and structural reforms”.

However, she said that, on reflection, it may have been “too soon” for the organisation to accept that a woman who had risen from within the ranks should lead that change.

“I wanted to do a lot, and I felt it was so badly needed. There was a real appetite for change, within the ordinary women and men,” she said.

Her successor, Drew Harris, was in a position to benefit from the work that had been done identifying the reforms that were needed, she said.

These reforms were designed to ensure that “good people” were supported, while “rooting out the wrong ones, and that bad culture that needs to be dealt with”.

O’Sullivan spent a large part of her early Garda career involved in the fight against drug crime, rising to the rank of detective superintendent while doing so. “The criminals saw the money that could be made from drugs, and very quickly it spread out from Dublin, and became national, and then international.”

The Garda had to restructure nationally, and quickly develop “robust” relationships with other police forces. “That sort of internationalisation took place pretty quickly,” she said. “The globalisation of crime and the globalisation of terrorism means that there are no boundaries and no borders.”

The Garda had to be careful to help some of those who became enmeshed in the drugs trade, she said: “You need to be very careful not to criminalise users or people who are actually victims of very sophisticated drug networks and who have been intimidated. When you look at everything from punishment beatings to families who are intimidated into paying over money, there is a lot of victimisation that happens in that drugs/organised crime nexus that is not always that visible,” she said.

O’Sullivan saw this first-hand during the early 1980s: “Addiction was tearing families apart. I still meet people today who saw their families, their children, dying, and then their grandchildren become addicted. And then, on the other side, I know one particular woman, and her proudest claim is that she put all her grandchildren through college, even though her children had died from drugs.”

Undercover unit

When O’Sullivan joined the force in 1981 less than 1 per cent of gardaí were women. Following Templemore, she was sent to Store Street in Dublin 1, policing one of the most deprived urban communities on the island.

In her early twenties, she was chosen as a member of the Garda’s first undercover drugs unit, working with five others to get inside the “fortresses” that the criminal gangs set up as the heroin trade took hold.

Because it was the practice at the time for detectives to wear suits, shirts and ties, they “might as well have had a blue light flashing” when they approached flats complexes. “It wasn’t popular. We didn’t look like normal detectives, we didn’t wear suits and ties. We were dressed in street clothes, and it was very different and unusual at the time. Some people in traditional policing circles didn’t see the need for it.”

It was exciting work but dangerous, as the group posed as users wanting to buy drugs as a means to gather information about who was behind the supplies, making arrests along the way.

Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at a concert at Slane Castle in 1984, with other members of an undercover unit called the ‘mockies’ that targeted drug crime in Dublin in the 1980s
Former Garda commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan at a concert at Slane Castle in 1984, with other members of an undercover unit called the ‘mockies’ that targeted drug crime in Dublin in the 1980s

She lists off the injuries, including bites, that her colleagues suffered when situations turned violent, before casually mentioning that she has a chipped tooth from a head-butt. Her husband, Jim McGowan, who was also part of the undercover team, suffered a skull fracture in one incident.

“We [the undercover team] worked really well together, and it was that whole thing of having a sense of purpose, trying to identify who were the main dealers, how to get in there, get the evidence to bring to court, and at the same time to make sure that the people who needed help got help.”

Dubbed the “mockies” – or mock drug addicts – the undercover unit was supported by the then detective inspector of the drugs squad, Dinny Mullins, and from the late Tommy O’Reilly, who was the superintendent in Store Street.

“I always felt that we as the police, and we as the unit that we were, that we owed the community a duty to do something about drug dealing, and to be seen to do something,” she said.

Later, as assistant commissioner crime and security, O’Sullivan had the lead role in national security and intelligence-led operations aimed at disrupting domestic and international terrorism and organised crime.

‘Archaic’ disciplinary procedures

She believes it is a strength of An Garda Síochána that it deals with both national security and regular policing. “The way we define terrorism needs to be the subject of a new conversation. There are [Republican] dissidents, international terrorism, terrorism financing, narco-terrorism, cyber terrorism. Once again it is all about protecting the community.”

Despite controversies, the Garda consistently has a high public trust rating of more than 85 per cent, a figure that is the envy of most other police forces, she said.

Supporting Harris’s anti-corruption policies, O’Sullivan warned that the Garda had to be vigilant to ensure that officers “struggling to pay a mortgage” are not tempted into wrongful behaviour.

“You have to be very proactive in making sure that you minimise the opportunities for any type of corruption that might be there. I think that is really, really important.”

The vetting of new recruits needs to be “robust”, and once in the force members need to be subject to supervision that is “almost intrusive”, she believes.

Asked if it is too difficult to fire a garda, she responded immediately that it is, adding that “archaic” disciplinary procedures must be modernised.

Nóirín O’Sullivan resigned from her role as Garda commissioner in 2017. Photograph: Alan Betson
Nóirín O’Sullivan resigned from her role as Garda commissioner in 2017. Photograph: Alan Betson

“No good police officer wants to be on a patrol, in a car, in any place with somebody that is known to be a rogue, or bad. They want to call out behavioural issues, and do the right thing, by and large. And I think there is an obligation on the organisation that structures be in place to support that and weed out wrongdoing, so as to address any behavioural issues very early on.”

Policing, and especially frontline policing, is a very stressful occupation, and on occasion members can have “blue mist” or “red mist” episodes and feel inclined to strike out, she said.

“At the end of the day everyone is human and people are afraid, and that is where we really need to be clear about professional standards and that line that you do not cross.”

Garda do an extraordinary job every day, she said. “Putting on a uniform does not make you immune to fear and dread.”

Body cameras

The arrival of smartphones and social media have made frontline policing all the more stressful, she said, with the latter sometimes being used to try to identify members of the force and publish their home addresses.

“You are there and all of a sudden there is this mayhem all around you and you have these people putting cameras in your face,” O’Sullivan said.

Body cameras would help relieve the pressures created by people videoing Garda members while at the same time verbally abusing them in an effort to provoke a response.

“I think a lot of people who engage in this type of behaviour would be more reluctant to do it, if they knew that the guard had a body camera and could record that person’s behaviour.”

“In my experience, the guards have nothing to fear from having them. It is the opposite. They can be a protection.”

An Garda Síochána face the same types of violent incidents as other police forces, O’Sullivan said, but are particularly good at managing them.

“The guards are very tolerant of what I would say are abusive situations, and try to de-escalate and de-conflict situations that would escalate very quickly in other jurisdictions.”

Asked if she believes members of An Garda Síochána tend to protect and cover-up for colleagues who have acted improperly, O’Sullivan said a lot has changed in recent years.

“In my experience most people who join the police, join to do the right thing. They don’t want to see wrongdoing, they want wrongdoing to be challenged, and they are willing to call it out. And you have to have the mechanisms in place to allow them to call it out and to speak up.”


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This £4.5 million dream Omaze home in Cornwall with sea views, heated swimming pool and its own tower plus £250,000 in cash could be yours for just a tenner in latest draw

The lucky winner of the latest Omaze draw will bag a £4.5 million home with stunning sea views – along with £250,000 in cash – and the ticket is only ten pounds.

Endorsed by fierce Dragon’s Den businesswoman Deborah Meaden, the lavish four-bedroom property is located on the Cornish coastline, near Falmouth.

Not only does the gorgeous property boasts panoramic views, it is also kitted out with the latest mod cons including a heated swimming pool and its very own terraced tower.

As well as the luxury home, the winner will pocket £250,000 in cash to help them settle in with stamp duty, legal fees and the mortgage will already be covered. 

But if they don’t fancy setting up home there they can choose to sell it and become an instant multi-millionaire, or rent it out for an estimated £5,000 a month.

The lucky winner of the latest Omaze draw will bag a £4.5 million home with stunning sea views on the

The lucky winner of the latest Omaze draw will bag a £4.5 million home with stunning sea views on the 

The lavish property is located on the Cornish coastline, near Falmouth and boasts a range of the latest mod cons

The lavish property is located on the Cornish coastline, near Falmouth and boasts a range of the latest mod cons

As well as a tower and a hot tub, the luxurious home also has a wine cellar (pictured)

As well as a tower and a hot tub, the luxurious home also has a wine cellar (pictured)

Omaze says the draw, which costs £10 to enter, will raise a minimum of £1million for the RSPB to help support the protection and restoration of peatlands – which are home to some of the UK’s rarest birds and wildlife.

No-nonsense entrepreneur and TV personality Deborah Meaden is backing the partnership, urging people to protect our ‘threatened’ wildlife.

Deborah said: ‘Some of the best moments of my life have been when I have stood still surrounded by nature, just listening and watching. 

‘But nature is in crisis. We are now one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. 

‘We don’t want our wildlife to disappear, our wild places to be threatened, or our rivers to be polluted. 

‘This partnership with Omaze is a fantastic way to not only raise significant sums of money for vital conservation work, but also spread awareness for the RSPB and take action for nature. 

She added: ‘I’m so proud to be supporting this incredible partnership between the RSPB and Omaze. Together we can save the nature we love before it’s too late.’

Meticulously designed to celebrate the surrounding coastal landscape, the potential winner can soak in the Cornish countryside from every room of the house. 

No-nonsense entrepeneur and TV personality Deborah Meaden is endorsing the draw which will fundraise at least £1million for the RSPB

No-nonsense entrepeneur and TV personality Deborah Meaden is endorsing the draw which will fundraise at least £1million for the RSPB

The bespoke open plan kitchen in the ultra-modern home with panoramic views of the sea

The bespoke open plan kitchen in the ultra-modern home with panoramic views of the sea  

The lavish living space with floor to ceiling windows allowing light to spill into every crevice of the property

The lavish living space with floor to ceiling windows allowing light to spill into every crevice of the property

The four-bedroom house also has an outdoor heated pool (pictured) as well as a hot tub and speakers installed throughout the home

The four-bedroom house also has an outdoor heated pool (pictured) as well as a hot tub and speakers installed throughout the home 

The spectacular home comes with breath-taking open plan living space with a bespoke kitchen, dining room and luxurious sitting room area perfect for hosting guests.

The central stylish staircase to the lower ground floor leads to the main bedroom, with a deluxe en-suite bathroom and dressing area. 

This floor has a further three double bedrooms, two of which are en-suite, as well as a family bathroom, utility room, plant room and a chic wine room. 

Floor-to-ceiling glass windows and sliding doors allow sunlight to spill into every crevice of this ultra-modern home and are also a gateway to a spacious terrace which wraps around the house.

The large dining terrace can be accessed via the kitchen and boasts an idyllic space for entertaining guests alfresco style at anytime of the day.

Boasting luxury features, the home has quality speakers installed throughout the house, an outdoor sunken fire pit to keep warm outside as well as a hot tub and pool house.

The winner could soak in the coastal surroundings from the outdoor heated pool or the hot tub – or even the pool house, which could be used as an office.

However the property’s unique features don’t end there, with a striking tower located in the southern end of the house. 

Accessible via a second staircase, the tower connects the cosy ground floor snug to the first-floor office as well as a fantastic sundowner terrace.

The winner’s home would also be surrounded with a copious amount of colourful plants and shrubs as well as outstanding sea views across to the iconic Pendennis Castle and St Anthony’s Head Lighthouse.

The glamorous home also has an outdoor kitchen with a sunken fire, with direct access to the South West Coast Path.  

The winner will be able to overlook the stunning Cornish countryside from almost every room of the house (pictured: one of the bedrooms)

The winner will be able to overlook the stunning Cornish countryside from almost every room of the house (pictured: one of the bedrooms)

Three of the bedrooms boast en-suites, with an additional family bathroom in the property (pictured)

Three of the bedrooms boast en-suites, with an additional family bathroom in the property (pictured) 

The home is also perfect for hosting guests al-fresco anytime of night or day with a copious amount of outdoor seating

The home is also perfect for hosting guests al-fresco anytime of night or day with a copious amount of outdoor seating

Its outdoor kitchen and sunken fire pit makes it a picturesque place to spend your summer nights

Its outdoor kitchen and sunken fire pit makes it a picturesque place to spend your summer nights

Thanks to the coastal path, the property is within walking distance to a myriad of stunning beaches including Maenporth, Swanpool and the quieter Nansidwell. 

The house is conveniently located just 3.5 miles from the historic town and port of Falmouth. 

Conveniently only 3.5 miles away from the port of Falmouth, there is plenty to do in the surrounding area, from cruising in the Helford River or River Fai to taking up golf in one of the many nearby courses. 

River and sea fishing, other water sports such as windsurfing and water skiing on the Helford Passage and in Falmouth Bay are also popular activities to do in the area. 

It is also a great location to explore the coves of the Lizard Peninsula.

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Top 10 Urban Property Hotspots

Bradford And Blackpool Lead The Pack

Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, exclusive data from OnTheMarket reveals.

A combination of affordable house prices and growing number of buyers being priced out of nearby Leeds is helping lift Bradford’s property market, OnTheMarket said.

Speaking to This is Money, Robert McCarthy, manager of Hunters estate agency in Bradford, said buyers were attracted to the area because properties are ‘dirt cheap.’

Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals
Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals

He said: ‘Bradford is seeing a high increase in first time buyers and investors, with properties ranging from around £70,000 for a two bedroomed terrace, £110,000-£130,000 for a three to four bedroom terrace and £120,000 to £240,000 for a three bedroom semi-detached or detached property.

‘This gives a buyer much more for their money, while keeping the mortgage payments lower.’

He added: ‘This week we had a three bedroom semi-detached property go on the market needing some work at £100,000.

‘We we had over 90 requests to view, with some buyers offering before a viewing at well over the asking price.

‘I personally bought a three bedroom semi-detached renovation project in the area with a large garden for £51,000 a few years ago.

‘Now fully renovated, if I was selling to put it on the market it would be around £180,000 to £190,000.’

Mr McCarthy told This is Money that it was possible to buy a one or two bedroom flat in the centre of Bradford for between £20,000 to £60,000.

Urban property hotspots

Blackpool, Rochdale and Plymouth came in second, third and fourth place respectively in OnTheMarket’s latest rankings, with Rochdale climbing from 23rd to third place.

As cities like Manchester become increasingly expensive, Rochdale has ballooned in popularity with buyers.

Andrew Cardwell, manging director of Cardwells Estate Agents, said he wasn’t surprised about Rochdale’s colossal climb in the rankings.

Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining
Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining

He said: ‘Earlier this year Rochdale was recognised as one of the most affordable places to buy a property, with an average house price of around £206,000.

‘As well as offering excellent value for money, it’s within easy reach of Manchester city centre and has beautiful countryside.’

Plymouth jumped from 22nd to fourth place in the rankings. It is the only southern location to make it to the top five, OnTheMarket said.

Plymouth is home to HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in western Europe and the city is brimming with shops and restaurants.

Jacob Tebb, president of OnTheMarket, told This is Money: ‘Property buying decisions continue to be heavily influenced by affordability, according to our latest hotspots index, which reveals that some of the most active or “hottest” areas also offer buyers the best value.”

He added: ‘Overall, the north/south divide is holding firm, with some of the most vibrant and cheapest locations in the north seeing the most heat in terms of housing market activity and only one southern location making it into the top ten.’

Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Sunderland, Wakefield and Derby also made it to the top ten, while Middlesborough, Burnley and Coventry were just outside the top 10.

Wakefield rose from thirtieth to ninth place, while Birmingham climbed from forty-third to twenty-third place.

Where is the market cooling? Urban property hotspots

OnTheMarket added: ‘Moving in the other direction, demand in Wigan cooled significantly, dropping from second to fifteenth place in our rankings, while Liverpool has fallen from eleventh place in the first quarter to thirtieth.

‘Worthing, one of the few southern locations to be considered a hotspot, fell from twentieth to fifty-third place. The “coolest” hotspot on our list is Brighton.’

The average price of a house in Brighton and Hove was £422,000 in April, according to the Office for National Statistics. Its coastal location and proximity to London makes it popular but expensive with buyers.

Activity in Gloucester, Norwich and Warrington is also cooling, OnTheMarket said.

How is the London property market faring?

OnTheMarket crunched separate data for the London property market. The data suggested there has been ‘less fluctuation nationally and very little movement’, On The Market said.

Within the London-focused rankings, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Sutton, Redbridge and Newham comprised the top five, followed by Bexley, Hillingdon and Enfield. Hounslow and Croydon also made it to the top 10.

However, Hounslow dropped out of the top five London hotspots in the quarter, while Lambeth, Southwark and Merton all fell four places.

In the last few years, higher mortgage rates have put a dampener on the property market. However, the Bank of England is expected to cut interest rates this summer and some banks and building societies have already started trimming rates on their mortgage deals.

Barclays recently upped the ante in the mortgage price war currently playing out between banks and building societies.

The mortgage lender cut rates by up to 0.33 percentage points across a wide range of deals for both homebuyers and those remortgaging, resulting in several new best-buys.

Halifax also announced it was cutting mortgage rates by up to 0.13 percentage points on selected deals.

What’s on sale now?

1. Three-bed semi-detached house, Bradford, £190,000

This three-bedroom semi-detached house at Hopefield Way, Bierley in Bradford, is on sale via Hunters estate agency for £190,000.

It has a light and airy living room and a spacious kitchen-diner. The property has gardens at the front and rear and comes with one driveway parking space.

Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford

2. Two-bed flat, Plymouth, £220,000

Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds

This two-bedroom ground floor flat on sale via Julian Marks is set in a substantial end of terrace late Victorian-era property and is listed for £220,000.

The newly fitted kitchen is modern and stylish, and elsewhere charming period features have been retained.

The property has been owned by the same people since 1994 and comes with use of a small private garden, as well as a communal garden.

3. Four-bed house, Rochdale, £325,000

Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition

This four-bedroom detached property located in Milnrow, Rochdale, is on sale via Hunters for £325,000.

The house is in mint condition throughout with light and airy rooms. A family could move straight into this home without needing to lift a finger. There’s off-road parking, a single garage and gardens to the front and rear.

It’s an ideal property for a growing family.


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Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by ‘Savills’ reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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