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Woman shot by paramilitaries wins award after turning life around with beauty business

A young Belfast woman shot by loyalist paramilitaries five years ago has been speaking for the first time about how she has turned her life around.

Jemma McGrath, who had to learn to walk again, now runs her own business and has just been recognised by the Prince's Trust.

In September 2013 - after living under threat for several months in east Belfast - she ended up being shot multiple times.

Police blamed the attack on members of the UVF. Aged just 24, Jemma was left with horrific injuries and five years on she still bares the scars of that night.

“I was shot nine times, five in this leg, twice in this arm, once in this leg, and I’ve still got a bullet in my stomach. They are horrific and the scarring is bad, but it doesn’t get me down,” she told UTV.

“There were hard times, I was in a wheelchair beforehand for three months, it took me I had to learn to walk again, but I was always really determined the whole way through that.”

Jemma McGrath picks up her Prince's Trust enterprise award at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

She began doing online make up tutorials with one arm while recovering in the wheelchair - that progressed into running a firm selling false eyelashes online, with a new office and plans to start supplying her products in shops.

“I grew up in a community filled with religious and racial hate, and fought my way through life. I worked in care but used drugs and alcohol out of hours, and let my life spiral out of control when my dad died.

“I tried turning my life around and went to study makeup at college but then I was shot nine times, left with multiple broken bones, and told I'd never walk again. My body was - and still is - held together by pins; and my post traumatic stress gave me such severe panic attacks I thought I was dying.”

On Monday night the 29-year-old was recognised by the Prince's Trust for her beauty business Make-up UR Life - as well as the work she does to empower other women.

“There’s that part of working on people from the inside, and that’s where my passion lies for me, that's what I want to go forward with,” she explained.

If you educate a woman, you educate a family. If you educate a family, you educate a community.

– Jemma McGrath

She added: “This is what we’re hoping will work especially with the women on the ground.”

Jemma says she no longer lives in fear of those who attacked her.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ve had my angry days but I actually feel sorry for them because I know that they’ve been brainwashed,

“You’re brainwashed to look up to these people and you’re brainwashed that this means something, you don’t see outside of the box and that night put me outside of the box and I’m grateful for that.

“For me, my life now it feels like 'you had a hard lesson to learn' and I learnt from it and I've went about it in my own way in how I’ve dealt with it.

“I have worked hard and I’m proud of where I am in my life now.”