Belfast Telegraph

My Hopes for 2006

A new year - a new challenge. Judith Cole asked local personalities for their thoughts on the year ahead

By Judith Cole

I NEVER thought that after my accident in Florida in March 2004, when I was critically injured during training, that I would come as far as I have. Initially, doctors didn't expect me to pull through at all.

Janet Gray MBE, blind triple water-ski world champion

I NEVER thought that after my accident in Florida in March 2004, when I was critically injured during training, that I would come as far as I have. Initially, doctors didn't expect me to pull through at all.

Then, in the first few months after the accident, they said it would take five years in recovery to put everything right. You don't want to believe things like that and when you make big strides at the start you think you'll be fully recovered in one year. But it's nearly two years for me now and there's still a long way to go. I went through a big operation before Christmas but it was lovely to get out of hospital and enjoy Christmas at home with my family.

I've had a lot of surgery this year. But I was back in training again - working hard in the gym - and it was good to get my life back on track. While it has been a tough year I'm very thankful for the distance I have come.

I've been working on other things too, including starting to write a book on my life. I am hoping to do more media work after my successful documentary, Blind Ambition, which was broadcast in September. It was about my journey of rehabilitation, and we travelled back to Tampa, Florida, to film.

That was very difficult for me as facing up to the trauma of the accident is still very hard. It was very emotional but I was so glad to have the opportunity to go back and chat to the doctors there. They couldn't have been more helpful. When you meet the people who saved your life it helps to bring the reality of what happened a bit closer.

I've also done some coaching on the water although I haven't done any water-skiing myself. I'm President of Disability Sports Northern Ireland and I run water-skiing groups for disability groups. We had various ski days, which were great and I got a lot out of coaching the kids. I want to move the sport forward and have plans to help develop it in Northern Ireland. It's lovely to know that disabled kids enjoy the sport. For me to be able to give something back to them, and to see them achieve the rewards and enjoyment I get out of water-skiing, is fantastic. It's a terrific confidence-building exercise.

My big goal next year is to get back on the water and that's what's been driving me this year. We don't know yet what's possible for me or what level I can attain but it is my whole focus and helps me move forward.

This year, the most memorable event for me was attending Buckingham Palace for the Duke of Edinburgh 50th anniversary celebrations. I met Prince Philip and Prince Edward again, which was really nice. I'd met them at the garden party in June and they were very interested to know about the sport and how I water-ski.

George Jones, Radio Ulster presenter

WE always begin a new year with new hope for ourselves and for our environment, because we've had enough problems to deal with over the last 30 years. It's time for a new beginning. All in all, 2005 was a year of gradual change for Northern Ireland. We came into the light in some respects after many years of darkness. In the new year, I hope that this improvement for our country will keep going and that all our people can live together in peace.

The past year was also a memorable one for myself in broadcasting and culminated in a Children in Need auction which broke all records. This gave me great satisfaction. I'm a great believer in giving and the generosity of people was amazing.

A brand new beginning awaits me in 2006 for I finish with the BBC and I'm not quite sure what the future holds. The show is expected to end in June and I have a couple of ideas including a desire to commence - and complete - a book of my life. This is an ambition I've had for a long time. But I'm not finished with broadcasting. I want to continue to make people happy, as I have done for the last 20 years.

My wife Hillary and I are still working on the possibility of moving to a smaller house because, apart from financial concerns, our house is getting a bit big for us. We're going to scale down a bit. Certainly, this time last year, I couldn't have foreseen how 2005 was going to turn out for me but life goes on and like everyone else you have to face these challenges.

As for Sadie, who has been my popular sidekick on my show, I'm afraid she has retired. She's in an old people's home and one of my new year resolutions is to visit her more than once a week.

Jackie Fullerton, BBC sports broadcaster

IT has been a very good year for me. Having had triple bypass surgery in October 2004, I was rather low in energy at the beginning of the year, but I've been gaining strength all the time. I lost a stone-and-a-half while I was in hospital for seven weeks and I have managed to keep most of that off.

I have also resisted the temptation to smoke for 15 months, which is quite a triumph in itself. I'm very pleased about that as it's not easy - smoking is a strong addiction. But it wouldn't make sense for me, in my situation, to light up again.

The big comeback for me was when I commentated on the Northern Ireland v England World Cup qualifier at Windsor Park in September. I had done a couple of smaller matches but this one was always the target and it was very fulfilling.

For me, it was certainly the most memorable event of the year - and in particular David Healy scoring after 74 minutes. Northern Ireland hadn't really looked like troubling England but when they scored the goal, I remember saying, as Healy stepped forward: "Healy... the flag stays down, HEALY!" Then I paused and my wife and family at home thought I'd had another seizure but then I said: "What a moment for Northern Ireland, what a moment for Windsor Park." So there was relief at home. I thought I would never see days like that again, and it was wonderful to witness it. It was great that an ageing commentator had another exciting moment like that.

I've continued to keep well and I'm very grateful because I realised when I was lying in hospital that if you don't have your health you don't have anything.

My resolutions for 2006 would be in the same vein. I'm 63 in May and I'm privileged to be still working in the television business after over 30 years. I love the buzz of it and I now have the right perspective on it: it's not everything in life, it's simply part of life. I want to keep off the cigarettes, keep going to the gym and enjoy broadcasting. I'm looking forward to another full year.

As for the World Cup, I would always favour Brazil and their star player Ronaldinho, who is without doubt the greatest player on the planet at this point in time. England could do well because they haven't a bad side and I think they could get to the semi-finals - even though we stuffed them.

Mike Nesbitt, UTV television anchor

ISELDOM finish a day feeling I've done enough, never mind a year, but I would say my biggest challenge professionally was being sent to Stormont the night before George Best's funeral and having to anticipate the mood for the next morning; you have to take yourself beyond the fact that everyone around you is preoccupied with being cold and wet and make a judgement about what people at home want to hear, and the tone in which they want it delivered.

Outside of work, I would like to claim my big achievement in 2005 was helping my first son through the 11-Plus, but as the results are not out yet, maybe I should take a time-out on that one!

Thinking ahead to 2006, it's an exciting time for education in Northern Ireland and I am looking forward to helping out at my old school, Campbell College. We have a new headmaster this coming year, a campus which is second to none, great staff, and the challenge is to help make people realise what a gem it is.

Phillip McCallen, record breaking motorcyclist

IT has been a good year in general regarding family life, business and my work for sports clubs. Since I gave up racing in 2000, my life expectancy has been greater and I have become more involved in other work.

I'm still deeply involved in motorcycling, through PR work and television at the TT races and North-West 200.

I try to put something back into the sport which gave me so much, including working on improving safety among newcomers. I'm also involved through my business: we sell motorbikes to the public and to racers.

The most memorable event for me was the birth of our son, Tommy, in June. Our three- year-old daughter Katie has taken to him very well. She's very protective of him. It's great having children but you really have to be prepared. They are everything and demand all your attention.

I don't tend to make resolutions; I would rather call them guidelines or rules that I set each year and aim for. I don't always stick to them but they're there to remind me to keep striving for what I want.

Next year I want to look after myself better. I intend to train harder and make my health a greater priority. I used to be super fit all the time but the last couple of years I've been a stone-and-a-half heavier than I've ever been - although I'm not too bad.

I also want to continue my safety work with motorcycle clubs and race organisers. I like to have an input and want to do something to help the sport in Northern Ireland. Motorcycling is getting a hard time at the moment with its image as a dangerous sport. It's hard to say how much safer it has become but many people - riders, clubs and organisers - are working hard to make things better.

Gerry Kelly, chat show host

IWILL always remember 2005 as the year 'Kelly' came to an end, after 17 years. But another event which stands out in my memory is my visit to Sudan this time last year.

We went to Darfur and were filming what we described as the greatest humanitarian disaster in the world. Of course, in the 12 months since then there have been four even worse catastrophes. It is hard to believe that, after witnessing at first hand the terrible plight of Darfur, that the world was plunged into disaster four more times.

Next year I will be recording 35 new programmes, which will be half an hour each involving a one-to-one interview with the guest which will be more in-depth. They won't be studio-bound either and I'm looking forward to getting out and about.

It is a personal challenge for me. With 'Kelly' over, it will be strange to think that my Friday nights are free now. I'm not afraid of the change; part of the reason we decided to alter the format was to get out of the comfort zone we were in and face new challenges - I will certainly be busier than ever.

I'm also presenting a Sunday morning show on the new UTV radio channel U105, which goes out live from 10am until 1pm.

Not only that, but I am starting to write a book and have been thinking about what's going to be included and what's not.

As for resolutions, I make the same ones every year and keep hoping that, one year, they will stick. Once again I will have a go at losing some weight and see how far I get!

Jeffrey Donaldson, DUP MP

THE most memorable event of 2005 for me was retaining my seat in the general election and seeing the DUP do so well and taking a stand as the largest party in Northern Ireland. Overall this has been a very difficult year, with so many disasters around the world and, here in Northern Ireland, so little political progress.

It has been a mixed year: while we are very pleased with the election results we have been disappointed with lack of progress from others. I hope that in 2006 we'll finally see an end to paramilitarism in Northern Ireland. I think that the choices for people have been made very clear. I hope and pray that the paramilitaries will see the futility of their crime and violence and finally bring it to an end - and thereby offer the people a chance to move forward.

I am also working in Westminster on the all-party group on Africa and hope we see real progress there, too. The executive group, of which I am a member, focuses on poverty and AIDS in Africa and we work to press the UK government to take a lead at international level at tackling this.

I am pleased with what we have achieved to date but I hope we'll take a huge step forward in achieving our goal of improving the well-being of the people on that continent.

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