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Northern Ireland celebs share hopes and dreams for 2019

The dawn of a new year is the perfect time to reflect on what has gone before and to look ahead to the future. From losing weight and getting fit to shunning social media and spending time with loved ones, these well-known Northern Irish faces have big plans for 2019

Ashleigh Coyle
Ashleigh Coyle
Claire Bowes, founder of Omagh Music Academy
Q Radio DJ Ryan Annett and daughter Sophia
Playwright Leesa Harker
Singer Jake Carter on RTE's Dancing with the Stars
Lisa McHugh
Frank Mitchell
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

Former Big Brother and current Hot Right Now star Ashleigh Coyle says that 2019 will be the year in which she gets serious about saving money.

"I really feel 2018 has been one of my greatest years to date. I've found genuine happiness and complete peace with myself. These were my only resolutions entering 2018 and I worked hard throughout the year to achieve them. I had a great year career-wise, including media and outside of it. Mentally I feel I've overcome a lot and have really focused on ensuring I stay positive and working on strategies to help me when I do feel low.

"My hopes and dreams for 2019 are as simple as they were when I came into 2018. I want to stay happy in my career, travel a little more and feel peace with my life overall. And to keep reminding myself that I'm only 23 and have plenty of time for everything I want to achieve.

"I don't usually set New Year's resolutions, because I can be so hard on myself if I feel I failed, but this year I'm going to give it a go. I'm awful at saving money. So this year I'm making a conscious effort to put money aside. I'm so ready for this, I even downloaded a money management app. My motivation is coming from everyone close to me saying it will never last. I'm also trying out '12 months of 12 changes'. For example, in January there will be no alcohol, in February, no takeaways. I've yet to write up my 12 changes though!"

Q Radio DJ Ryan Annett and daughter Sophia

Q Radio DJ Ryan Annett, known to listeners as Ryan A, says he has his eye on a few awards this year and is hoping to get the work-life balance just right.

"My 2018 was definitely a year to remember. Firstly, my beautiful daughter Sophia turned one. Where on earth does the time go? Now it's scary to think we are heading towards the second birthday this year coming.

"Also, this year I got the best news that my showtimes were changing and I would be the new host of Q Radio's drive time, which we call the HomeRun. So 2018 for me was a brilliant year.

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"I am really looking forward to getting back on to the show in 2019 and seeing where I can take it. I think this would be a good year to start aiming for awards with the show.

"Now that I have settled in on this time slot and with life outside of work I'm looking forward to a healthy balance of work and family time, with Jenny and Sophia, (below left).

"If there is one thing that I want to change in 2019 it's the time I spend on social media. This year I am going to give myself certain times that I will check my phone, instead of being anti-social and looking at it all the time."

Singer Jake Carter on RTE's Dancing with the Stars

Musician and Dancing With the Stars celebrity Jake Carter says he will be no stranger to television viewers in 2019.

"This last year was a great one for myself. I started the year in the SSE Arena pantomime, went straight into Dancing With The Stars on RTE, which I won, then I went on tour all over Ireland and Northern Ireland. I am now finishing off the year playing the role of Aladdin in this year's Olympia Pantomime in Dublin.

"So far 2019 looks like it's going to be a great year. We plan on going back on tour and there's also plenty of TV in the pipeline for the new year, which I'm extremely excited about.

"My New Year's resolution is to get in better shape, and to not procrastinate as much. Whether it will happen or not is another matter."

Belfast author and playwright behind the hugely successful Maggie Muff series, (inset right), Leesa Harker, says that she hopes 2019 will be her year to hit television.

"The past year for me was very busy work-wise. But I feel like I have little to show for it. So this year, I will be focusing my efforts on projects that really mean something to me. I would really love to have some significant progress in writing for television. Last year was also the 'year of the holidays', as I had some big holidays planned then also got some last-minute bargains. I've loved seeing new places and cultures, but I have to rein in the spends this year or we'll be living on beans and toast! The year also saw me reach five years free from cancer, which I was delighted about. I celebrated in Benidorm!

"My main hope for 2019 is really some significant movement on the television writing. I've been procrastinating a lot this year and I've wasted precious time, along with a bout of writer's block, which has made me very anxious and resulted in sleepless nights. But I'm drawing a line under it and starting afresh for 2019.

"I'm also wanting to look after myself a bit more. I want to be healthier. A lot of my time is spent sitting at a desk eating biscuits and crying over a blank page - not actually - and that's not good for your health.

"With regard to resolutions, I'm going to spend more time going out with friends, as I've been a social hermit this year. I'm learning to crochet. I'm taking positive steps to kick the procrastination/writer's block and not letting it snowball. And I'm spreading kindness and compliments whenever I can."

Claire Bowes, founder of Omagh Music Academy

Businesswoman Claire Bowes, who was blinded in the 1998 Omagh bomb, says 2018 was the year she ventured to London unaccompanied, something she is very proud of. She says that she will continue to live life to the full in 2019.

"The year 2018 was a pretty good year. I achieved quite a few things I wanted to achieve, one of which was completing a piano teacher's course in London, which involved a lot of independent travel to and from the city. It was a course I really wanted to do, so I decided that I couldn't let my sight loss hold me back and went for it. I'm delighted with the qualification I achieved, as well as the fact I travelled to London unaccompanied, something that's no big deal for a lot of people but it's the first time I had even considered doing something like this since I lost my sight.

"In April, I joined Cycle against Suicide for one day of their two-week cycle, tandem cycling from Omagh to Ballyshannon. Another highlight of 2018 was my sister's wedding in November, when I was her bridesmaid. Our youngest daughter also started nursery school in 2018, which was another milestone. I decided that I was going to live life to the full in 2018 and feel I did so, enjoying lots of time with family and friends also. I hope for much of the same in 2019, with lots of quality family time being a huge focus."

Reporter and radio presenter Aideen Kennedy says that her New Year resolution will be to enjoy every single day.

"The past 12 months were a great year of spending lots of time with my children and parents and travelling lots, which was great because I hadn't been on holiday for so long.

"Keeping up my weight-loss regime has been great and it surprised me because it's the first time anything has really worked for me and all it involved was walking. I have come to the conclusion that time with family and friends is what really makes me happy.

"For 2019 I think I might like to make some changes, maybe be a bit more confident in myself. I want to do more for others, because I think this is a really strange and difficult time for all of us; it's just working out what you can do to make things better.

"And as far as resolutions go, I want to spend even more time with family and friends and just enjoy each day as it comes!"


Crime fiction author Brian McGilloway says 2019 will see his eagerly awaited new book hit the shelves.

"This last year was a bit of a mixed bag. Highlights for me were seeing Sir Ian McKellen playing King Lear in the West End, finally seeing Billy Joel in concert during the summer and being in the Aviva with my three sons to see Ireland beat the All Blacks. I also managed to finish a new book, which will hopefully see the light of day at some stage in the coming 12 months.

"Looking ahead to 2019, I'd hope the new book will be out at some stage this year. Beyond that, as with every year, I hope my family and friends achieve their goals and are healthy and happy. I've also a screen project that's been in development for some time now, which I really hope starts to move forward this year."

Frank Mitchell

UTV and U105 presenter Frank Mitchell has high sporting hopes for 2019.

"The year 2018 was very exciting. The move from Havelock House to City Quays Two had us buzzing in UTV and U105 and that buzz is continuing into 2019. I'm working on floors seven and eight, with incredible views. If you can't enjoy broadcasting here, you wouldn't enjoy it anywhere.

"For 2019 I'm hoping for a raft of exciting developments in sport. I think Manchester City by the end of 2019 will be more or less unbeatable. I'm expecting Down to renew their position as a force in Gaelic Football in Ulster and I'm hoping Northern Ireland can shock the pundits with progress against the odds.

"As for New Year resolutions, I'm determined to experience more in the way of big music events. I saw my all-time favourite singer John Fogerty during 2018, so during 2019 I'm hoping to see Steve Earle and a fine English band called The Flat Back Four."

Lisa McHugh

Country queen Lisa McHugh says 2018 was a huge year for her, both in her career and personal life, something she is hoping to repeat in 2019.

"I have had an incredible run of shows throughout the year, all over Ireland, the UK, Spain and so many places, including Nashville, which is always an amazing experience.

"I launched my very first cosmetic product in two different styles of eyelashes, which has been a massive learning curve for me, as it's so new and something I've never been involved in before, but I am loving every minute of it.

"My hopes for 2019 are to release more of my own original songs that I've written over the last few years. I have been working hard on this for quite a while now and I am so excited to open up that part of me in 2019 and I hope that everyone will like it.

"I'd also like to grow in cosmetics; fingers crossed I'll get the chance to release other products. I'd also love to continue to grow in my music career and tour in places that I've never been or performed before.

"I have a few New Year's resolutions. I want to learn to play more instruments, to travel more and I want to spend more time with family and have a little bit more time relaxing. I want to become a lot fitter than I currently am, so I aim to get back to the gym ASAP. And I want to concentrate hard on writing a lot more music also."

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