Belfast Telegraph

How did a former waitress end up presenting a television programme?

By Karen Ireland

Television presenter Siobhan McGarry (39) from Lurgan juggles a career with bringing up two teenagers and a toddler. Here the former waitress tells Karen Ireland how she manages to balance long hours with sleepless nights

Television presenter Siobhan McGarry (39) from Lurgan juggles a career with bringing up two teenagers and a toddler. Here the former waitress tells Karen Ireland how she manages to balance long hours with sleepless nights

AS she approaches her 40th birthday Siobhan McGarry doesn't look like a frazzled working mum. Instead, the attractive mother of, Ruairi (19), Eolann (16) and Mainie (2) is bursting with energy and ready for whatever life has to throw at her.

The secret, she says, is being in a good place in both her professional and personal life.

After five years with GMTV, first with Reuters and then ITN, Siobhan is now working for UTV, where she has been presenting UTV Live.

"Life is good," she says. "Busy .... but good, so I can't complain. I love my work and feel very privileged to do this for a living."

So, just how did the former Lurgan waitress end up on our television screens?

"My parents, Bridie and Frank McNiece, owned a restaurant in Lurgan for years. I worked in the family business, mainly as chief cook and bottle washer, but I always wanted to be a journalist.

"Eventually I studied for my NVQ in journalism and then I worked as a freelance reporter, writing for lots of papers including the Irish Times.

"I got some work with Reuters writing scripts and doing voice-overs before covering Ireland for GMTV under the ITN contract."

But, while her career was flourishing, life on the home front was difficult.

"I married my husband Aiden when we were both young, and I was only 20 when I had Ruairi," she explains.

"Eolann was born three years later, but my marriage didn't work out. I think the main problem was we were just too young. We got married when we should have just been going out together and enjoying each other's company.

"When we separated I did struggle a bit with the boys and work, but I had a lot of support from family and friends and the boys have always had a good relationship with their dad, which helped."

Acknowledging the large sparkler on her left hand, I point out it was obviously not a case of once bitten twice shy?

"Not at all. Like I say, it was just a case of wrong person and wrong time. I have been very fortunate to get a second chance to get it right.

"I met my fiance, Lawrence, through some mutual friends and we've been together for seven years.

"And yes, one day we will get married - we just haven't got round to organising anything yet. Too busy having a baby and building a house!"

In true cliched fashion, Lawrence came into Siobhan's life when she was least expecting it and felt she was much too busy and really didn't want to get into another relationship.

"But fate had other plans and we just kind of clicked. We are friends first and foremost and we talk about everything - that was probably the mistake I made the first time round. We were young and never talked about anything important.

"Lawrence and I are very similar and share lots of the same interests, but we are both passionate people which means we have are fair share of rows too. But who doesn't?

"One of the worst times was last year. I had bought him a motorbiking holiday in France for his 40th birthday present and he had a really serious accident at the end of the trip and ended up in intensive care in a French hospital.

"As I rushed over to his side, all I could think about was the big fight we had had just before he left. Thankfully, he was OK - although he did spend over a week in intensive care."

Siobhan says that Lawrence has always just been himself with the boys - not another 'dad' or 'uncle' - and that they love him for that and are very close to him.

"When we got together I was adamant that I didn't want any more children. As far as I was concerned I had been there done that and had my fill of nappies and sleepless nights.

"At the time, Lawrence felt the same, but all that changed a few years ago when, completely out of the blue, he told me he realised he really did want to be a dad."

Siobhan admits that this could have been make or break time for the couple, but after thinking about it for a long time she decided to go for it.

"Of course things don't always go according to plan and it took us some time to have Mainie, who is two now, but she is our gorgeous baby and completes the family.

"It was strange starting all over again. Everything has changed a lot since I had my first child. I've had to re-educate myself along the way, and sometimes I forget that Lawrence has never done this before and is learning all the time, too.

"I suppose, in ways, it is like having two families. Poor Ruairi jokes that people will think Mainie is his as the gap is so big, but the boys are wonderful with their little sister.

"It is lovely to have a daughter and I am looking forward to doing all those mother daughter things and having someone tell me when I am too old for certain clothes!"

Besides bringing up the kids, Siobhan and Lawrence - who is a builder - have been fully occupied building their own house, which is nearing completion.

She says: "I joke with Lawrence that if we were actually married we would be divorced by now anyway after the stress of that!

"We are like the cobbler's children, so the house will probably never be finished, but we designed it ourselves and it is our dream home. Or will be when it's finished..."

With her home life in happy choas, how are things on the work front following her move to UTV earlier this year, to cover Alison Fleming's maternity leave?

"I love working at UTV and one of the great things is working with other mums. We share things with each other and have a real support network.

"I'm lucky, too, in that as a freelance I get to cover a broad spectrum and haven't really been pigeon-holed.

"And I certainly don't miss those 4am starts at GMTV.

"Looking back I don't know how I managed that.

"Over the years I've covered some amazing stories from the run-up to Armagh winning the all-Ireland final, (we are big into football in our house as both boys play) to the G8 protests in Edinburgh recently.

"I've also covered some of the toughest stories, those which leave a lasting impact, such as the death of the young Gaelic player Cormac McAnallen and the tragic death of John McCall, the Armagh Royal pupil who died while on tour with his rugby team in South Africa.

"Things like that stay with you forever.

"That's why we should all just get on with things and make the most of life. Maybe I should start planning that wedding...

"I do know what I want - just to be in our new home, surrounded by all our friends and family and everyone having lots of fun. But I bet if you ask me again in about 10 years time I will still be saying I haven't got around to it yet. One day..."

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