Good Friday Agreement baby Erin off to uni
Born just 42 minutes after signing of agreement, now Erin is setting off to become a teacher
The first baby born in Northern Ireland after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement is marking a major milestone as she sets off for university.
Peace baby Erin McArdle will begin her early childhood studies at Stranmillis University College next month after achieving top marks in her A-Levels.
Erin was born at Antrim Area Hospital 42 minutes after the Agreement was signed on April 10, 1998.
The St Patrick's College Ballymena pupil hopes to teach in primary school, continuing her passion of working with children.
She recently obtained an A* in ICT and two Bs in double health and social Care after two years of hard work and determination.
The teenager has grown up aware of her symbolic status as a peace baby and has used it to reach across the divide in a mainly Unionist town.
During primary and secondary school, Erin worked in several cross-community groups, including the Ballymena Learning Together Programme, making life-long friends in the Protestant community.
"This programme included all the schools in Ballymena and allowed us all to spend days out together and get to know students at different schools," she said.
"It was pointed out a few times that I was the first baby born after the Belfast Agreement and that meant something.
"I understand the importance of it all, so I've always made an effort to get along with everyone and treat everyone as equals, as there is no divide among the community.
"Most of my friends are from the Protestant community. There's not much of a difference, which is great to see.
"I think Northern Ireland changed dramatically while I was growing up. I think things are a lot easier now. People aren't frightened to go places and they aren't scared to be seen in a certain part of town.
"I never felt the divide growing up in Ballymena. With all the work that has been going on, I don't think there will be much of a problem.
"While I don't follow politics closely, I am aware of what's going on around home.
"I think things are going well, but there's still a lot of issues to be resolved and worked on, but we're gradually getting there."
Erin's father Kevin, mother Caroline, and siblings Jessica, Rhiannon, Leah and Rory, said they are very proud to have a peace baby in the family.
Erin has spent the summer working as a shop assistant in McAtamney's Butchers and still enjoys being part of a cross-community group.
She is now preparing for her next educational step in Belfast, where she has lots of plans for her future.
"I was delighted when Stranmillis accepted me, because it was my first choice," she said.
"The early childhood studies course will bring me into a range of areas, including teaching, and will also help me get into nursing if I decide it's for me.
"I completed a placement at a hospital recently and while I wouldn't say it put me off, I thought it was very challenging, so I think primary school teaching is for me at the minute, but I'll see how things go.
"I have always wanted to work with children, I just didn't know whether it was medical, care or teaching. I went on a placement at the local primary school and I loved it. It give me a good insight into what they expect.
"Mum and dad are delighted for me. I've really wanted this and worked really hard for it for the last two years and they are delighted I am doing what I want to do."
Erin added: "I hope now to get through Stranmillis and become a primary school teacher and have a nice house and settle down with a family."