Maxine Mawhinney bids farewell to BBC after 20 years
The oldest female national news presenter in the UK - Northern Ireland journalist Maxine Mawhinney - has announced she's leaving the BBC after 20 years.
Leading the tributes was fellow Belfast broadcaster Eamonn Holmes, who tweeted: "Dearest Maxine. We didn't do bad for two wee farming reporters from Northern Ireland did we? Good luck and see you out there somewhere."
The veteran news anchor - who turns 60 in September - started her career 40 years ago in her home town of Belfast training as a newspaper journalist.
She went on to work for BBC Northern Ireland and UTV before moving away in 1990 to live and work around the world as a foreign correspondent for ITN, GMTV, Reuters and Sky News, before joining the BBC News channel in 1996.
"It has been an absolute privilege to work as a journalist for the last 40 years and I'm now at an exciting crossroads," she told the Belfast Telegraph.
And speaking about her future plans, she added: "I want to use my extensive experience in other areas and return to the freelance world - factual and lifestyle programmes, social affairs programmes and documentaries, and also feature writing.
"I will also be hosting events, moderating panels and keynote speaking."
Ms Mawhinney has previously spoken out against ageism faced by many female presenters in the broadcast industry.
Saying goodbye on air yesterday afternoon with co-presenter Simon Day, Ms Mawhinney recalled a glittering career interviewing presidents, prime ministers, pop stars and covering many major stories.
"I single-handedly presented the news on the night of the death of Princess Diana, I covered the Clinton presidency, the Oklahoma bomb, the trial of OJ Simpson and the Gulf War to name a few," she recalled.
She added: "Thank you for watching over the years and I know the BBC News channel will only go from strength to strength - so it's goodbye from me."
Pulling a surprise bouquet of flowers from beneath the desk, Mr Day said: "It's been a huge privilege to work with you and we will miss you dreadfully."
Those paying tribute included BBC Newsline presenter Donna Traynor, who said: "Final hour now Maxine Mawhinney.
"An anchor who is distinctive, knowledgeable, unflappable and always at ease in the hot seat. Good luck!"
BBC Breakfast presenter Louise Minchin commented: "Ahh Maxine, I always loved working with you.
"You are brilliant.
"Thanks for all the help and advice along the way.