One of the first Syrian refugees to have been resettled to Ireland has opened a pharmacy in rural Carlow.

Fadi Almasri, 34, opened the doors on his new business in the village of Ballon on Monday.

He said: "It's time to give something back to Ireland - the country which has given us lots of new opportunities. We are trying to give something back for what Irish people have done for us. For what Ireland has done for Syrians."

Fadi is originally from Homs, Syria's third largest city.

He was running his own pharmacy when the uprising against Bashar al-Assad began in 2011. He left his homeland for neighbouring Jordan.

Fadi and his family arrived in Ireland in late 2014, under a resettlement programme operated by the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Irish Government.

Following three months in the Mosney accommodation centre, the family were settled in Portlaoise, where they received an "incredible" welcome.

He explained: "I went to a pharmacist in Portlaoise, John Paul Shanahan, and asked him for training in the Irish system. I told him my story and he told me everything about the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the HSE and how to become a pharmacist here.

"That was the start of my pharmacy journey in Ireland - a journey which would eventually bring me to Ballon.

Fadi was running his own pharmacy in Syria when the war began in 2011.

"Before I opened on Monday, I was standing in the pharmacy and I just said to myself, 'it's real, I'm starting again'.

"Look, not everyone has the chance to start their life again. My first pharmacy went in the war. But now I have opened in Ballon and this is my future."

Fadi has employed three local people in the new business.

Supervising Pharmacist Bridget Dalton said: "I think it's absolutely phenomenal. When I knew him several years ago, he was working with me in a pharmacy.

"On one occasion I asked him about what he wanted to do when he left there. He told me he wanted to own a pharmacy and set up his own business. Of course, me being the cynical older lady, I said to myself, 'we can all dream, can't we?!' But it's here. He's done it."

Fadi, who also became a father for the first time last month, hopes the pharmacy will play a part in the Covid-19 vaccine roll-out.

Opening a new business in rural Ireland during a pandemic has not been easy, but he is optimistic about the future.

He said: "I'm not looking back. I'm just looking to the future for me and my family. I would tell anyone who has the opportunity of a new life, to take it."