TV babe Christine Bleakley opened her heart to Sunday Life last night about her love split with her partner of three years Mark Beirne.
Speaking for the first time about the break up, the bubbly presenter insisted: “Of course we’re still friends.”
And despite newspaper reports claiming that she’d been dumped by the Belfast bar owner and had been left “shocked and devastated” by the split, a smiling Christine said: “I’m good — glad to be home.”
The glam telly star’s private life came under close scrutiny last week when it was reported that her demanding career had led to a series of furious rows over Christmas and a final split last Tuesday.
Christine’s 35-year-old ex was quoted as saying that too much time apart had led to the relationship breakdown while her spokesman said no-one else was involved in the split.
Yesterday 29-year-old Christine explained she tries to get home as often as possible, but said she didn’t know if she would be seeing Mark this weekend.
And when asked if her next romance would be with someone based in London she said: “I don’t want to think about that.”
It’s understood that a house the couple had shared in south Belfast is now on the market.
Last night friends of Mark, who is selling his trendy House Pub & Kitchen on Belfast’s Stranmillis Road, claimed that Christine dumped Mark and that HE is the one who is devastated.
Previously Mark had been the managing director of Life Inns Ltd, a company which went into liquidation in January 2007 owing hundreds of thousands of pounds to suppliers.
A pal told Sunday Life: “Her profile surged following her appearance on The One Show and Strictly Come Dancing, and this drove a wedge between them.
“They appeared to be moving in different directions and his money problems also put a strain on the relationship.” Yesterday Christine denied she was relieved that the relationship was over.
“I’m not relieved. I would never say that,” she said.
And when we contacted Mark he said: “I just don’t want to say anything about this. We just want to respect each other’s feelings.
“I’m not interested in talking about this at the minute.”
Meanwhile Christine shrugged off the intense media attention generated by news of the split, saying: “That’s par for the course. When you work in TV you expect it and you deal with it.”
The star had been scheduled to do a series of press interviews yesterday in Belfast to promote the launch of Comic Relief events.
But on Friday, the media were informed that Christine’s publicist had asked for the round of newspaper interviews to be cancelled following news of the break-up.
However, yesterday a cheerful Christine was happy to speak to Sunday Life at the launch and even sent a text mes
sage to our reporter saying she was looking forward to a chat.
Since landing her job with The One Show, Christine has been living in a small London flat during the week and flying home at weekends to see Mark.
But the rising star upped her commitments when she agreed to compete in the BBC’s flagship show Strictly Come Dancing.
She combined presenting live to the nation on The One Show five nights a week with gruelling daily rehearsals and a live dance show on Saturday nights.
Every weekend Mark travelled to London to support her and her dance partner Matthew Cutler.
At the time, Christine said she realised that their relationship couldn’t stay long distance forever, explaining: “Mark and I are both busy during the week, but we manage to spend each weekend together.
“He came over for every recording of Strictly.
“It’s not something you can do forever, but we are at the stage when we are both still young and it’s okay for now.”
Last June Mark and Christine weathered unfounded rumours that Christine and her One Show co-host Adrian Chiles (41) were having an affair after they were pictured leaving a London basement flat minutes apart.
They were also caught trying to avoid paparazzi at the Royal Variety Show.
The speculation followed Adrian’s split from Jane Garvey, his wife of 10 years, but Christine has repeatedly laughed off the rumours, branding them “ridiculous”.
Adrian’s marriage to the Five Live and Women’s Hour presenter had been regarded as one of the most stable relationships in showbusiness.
His agent insisted that no-one else was involved and the split was blamed on Chiles’s career and his apparent inability to turn down work which left him stressed — and with less time to spend with his wife and two children.
Despite the fact that her work commitments had apparently sparked arguments with Mark during the Christmas holidays, she travelled to Uganda in early January with Comic Relief.
Yesterday at the launch of Red Nose Day, which will culminate in seven hours of comedy on March 13, Christine said her time in the African country made her re-evaluate her life.
She said: “I came across this wee girl called Hajara who is 16-years-old and whose mum died of Aids when she was 13, leaving her to look after her brothers and sisters.
“I have to admit that day has literally changed how I see everything. It sounds so ridiculous and such a cliche, but it really did.
“I was looking at her the whole time — I find it very emotional thinking about it.
“It puts everything in your life in perspective when you see something like that.
“You come back and you’re incredibly grateful that you can just hop in a shower and turn the hot water on and you’ve got clean clothes and you can buy a pint of milk.
“It was a very, very emotional few days and it does make you re-evaluate everything.”