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Valentine's Day: Famous Northern Ireland faces tell of their most romantic moments

Some of NI’s best known faces tell Linda Stewart and Leona O’Neill about meeting the loves of their lives, their best memories and the secrets of a successful relationship

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Gloria Hunniford with her husband Stephen Way

Gloria Hunniford with her husband Stephen Way

Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 8, 2017. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Thursday June 8, 2017. See PA story ELECTION Main. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

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Gloria Hunniford & husband Stephen Way

Gloria Hunniford & husband Stephen Way

Pete Byrne and husband Trevor Moore

Pete Byrne and husband Trevor Moore

Maria Connolly and partner Jeff Peters

Maria Connolly and partner Jeff Peters

Gloria Hunniford with her husband Stephen Way

Broadcaster Gloria Hunniford (79) lives with her husband Stephen Way (80), whom she married in 1998 in Sevenoaks, Kent.

She was previously married to Don Keating and had three children: daughter Caron and two sons, Michael and Paul.

Portadown-born Gloria clearly remembers the first time she set eyes on Stephen.

"I was going into an event at the Lanesborough Hotel in London with a girlfriend and Stephen got out of a taxi and went striding into the hotel... I said to my friend 'I hope he's going to the same event we are'," she laughs.

"He and I started to talk, we were chatting for ages and my son Michael came up and said: 'Sorry to interrupt but someone wants to talk to you'. Then he told me: 'You've been with that man all evening and I thought you might need to escape'!"

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Gloria Hunniford & husband Stephen Way

Gloria Hunniford & husband Stephen Way

Gloria Hunniford & husband Stephen Way

Gloria acknowledges that she wasn't looking for a husband at that stage, however things took a different turn.

"Second time around you're looking for different things," she says. "When you are getting married the second time, you're looking for different attributes - humour, of course, and kindness. I wasn't looking for a husband at that point, but I was very open to a relationship with someone to go to things with and do things with.

"We were really friends for nearly a year before we went into a proper relationship because I wasn't ready for a full-blown relationship. Then, we were on holiday in Barbados. He was swimming in the pool and invited me to join him. I said 'I can't swim' but I went ahead and did more strokes than I've ever done - which was about seven - and then I sank. He proposed to me in the swimming pool and he said I looked so vulnerable sinking after seven strokes that I looked like I needed somebody to look after me!"

Actress Maria Connolly from Carrickfergus, who is starring in the play Dream, Sleep, Connect at The Lyric Theatre next week, has been with her partner Jeff Peters for 18 years. They have two sons, Logan (15) and Ryan (12).

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Maria Connolly and partner Jeff Peters

Maria Connolly and partner Jeff Peters

Maria Connolly and partner Jeff Peters

"I knew Jeff was 'The One' because the night we met he drove me to the 24-hour garage and bought me a massive bar of Dairy Milk, she says. "I knew from that moment he was a keeper.

"I'd say that taking Jeff to Venice was the most romantic thing I've done, but according to him, the most romantic thing was cutting his toenails while watching a thunderstorm in Salou.

"We will get married one day, most likely in the Kingspan Stadium. That is providing I haven't already died from a heart attack watching our boys play rugby.

"I think the secret to a good relationship is laughter. If you can still make each other laugh after 18 years then you know you'll be together forever.

"My favourite thing about Jeff is his kindness - he would do absolutely anything for me and the boys."

Cool FM presenter Pete Snodden (39) lives in Bangor with his wife Julia (39) and their children Ivana (8) and Elayna (5). Pete says he knew right away that he'd met the right girl.

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Pete and Julia Snodden

Pete and Julia Snodden

Pete and Julia Snodden

"We met at university and I just remember saying to my mate when we got together that that would be it," he says. "I just had that feeling, I just knew. When we started going out with each other I said that is it, that was pretty much the deal.

"I love her personality, her looks, we share the same love of everything, from going out, to music, even our choice of movies.

"We're very similar, and we're both Geminis as well.

"When I proposed, I told her we were going to see a showcase of a new band in London and the record label would be looking after us.

"She was expecting to see a new band, but we went to the London Eye and I proposed there. She had no idea. I'd gone and had the ring designed, and I spoke to her parents before we went.

"After we got off the London Eye I had a Gary Rhodes restaurant booked and we went and had dinner with some of our friends."

Musician and broadcaster George Jones (75) and wife Hilary (72) live on the Ards Peninsula, and have two children, Jason and Natalie, and three grandchildren, Sophie, Jessie and Ethan.

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George Jones and his wife

George Jones and his wife

George Jones and his wife

Naturally, George first spied Hilary when he was working as a musician.

"I was playing with the David Glover Showband and we would go once a month to play Caproni's Ballroom in Bangor," he says.

"Every time we played there I saw this girl with her boyfriend and she caught my eye. We'd been back and forward to the venue and I never did anything about it.

"One Saturday night we played and I saw her with a couple of girls and I decided to make the leap. After we played the last song I called her over and said: 'I hope you don't mind, you wouldn't do me a big favour?' And she said: 'What is it?' And I said 'Would you tell me your name?'

"So I asked for her phone number. The next day was a Sunday and I drove up to where she lived and phoned from the call box outside her house. And she said: 'Where are you?' And I was outside the house. She was sitting in the house with her rollers in, but she came for a coffee with me in Belfast and then we agreed to go out."

George and Hilary's first date was the beginning of a lifelong love story.

"Our first date was at the movies - we saw a movie called Camelot, and that was it," he says.

"We kept on finding things we had in common and we've had an amazing 50 years. Because we have a lot of work at home with the horses we might go out for a meal for Valentine's Day. But flowers are the only way I think of expressing it. I'm not a big fan of chocolates because they could be done in one night, but flowers last a little longer.

"It's been an amazing 50 years, we've travelled the world and I don't think I could ask for a better partner."

Lisburn and Castlereagh City councillor Sorcha Eastwood (34) is married to civil servant Dale Shirlow (37).

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Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day.

Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day.

Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Alliance candidate for West Belfast Sorcha Eastwood casts her vote in the 2017 General Election, with her husband, Dale Shirlow, at a polling station in Lisburn, Northern Ireland, still wearing her wedding dress after they were married earlier in the day.

The couple made headlines by having their wedding on the polling day for the snap 2017 general election.

"We met at a rock club called The Venue in Belfast," she says. "It was December 22, 2000. I knew pretty much straight away that he was the one. We just sat and talked for ages. I knew from that moment that I wanted to marry him. We went out steady for five years and then we took a break for two-and-a-half years before we got back together again. Then he proposed in 2009. It was a long engagement, we didn't get married until 2017.

"Dale drove us to our favourite spot in Mount Stewart where there's a little private cove. He got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. I couldn't believe it. We drove to his parents in Holywood and then to my mum and dad's in Lisburn. It was lovely.

What's the most romantic thing that Dale ever did for Sorcha?

"We are so sensible and practical," she says. "I see Dale so little these days so when we do see each other we just chill. I suppose there is a romantic story, albeit an old one. I was going to a formal when I was still at school and he was at university. He went to my parents' house and put a corsage on my pillow and a multipack of Toffee Crisp under my pillow. It was really naff, but I loved it."

Sorcha says that the secret to a happy relationship is to remain down to earth and share the same values with the one you love.

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 Sorcha Eastwood and husband Dale Shirlow

Sorcha Eastwood and husband Dale Shirlow

Sorcha Eastwood and husband Dale Shirlow

"The secret is to listen to one another," she says. "Make sure to check in with your other half. It's so easy to be so busy with life. Have fun. We don't take anything too seriously. Both Dale and I are very down to earth and are very practical people. The day after we got married, and we were on the front pages of every newspaper casting our vote in our wedding gear, I came home and started scrubbing the shower tray.

"We hate anything fancy. I think that whenever you have the same values as the other person it's good. We love getting away from everything, leaving the phone at home and going hiking at Castlewellan or up Divis. Spending time away from everyone else, because you are giving so much of yourself to other people all week long, it's so nice to spend that time together.

"Dale's heart is my favourite thing. He is just the kindest, most genuine and loyal guy. We have been through everything - bereavement, traumas, family disasters - and he is just so easygoing and has the biggest heart in the world. Nothing is a bother to him, he takes everything in his stride.

"I have a really demanding job and a lot of the time I am not emotionally in the room, I'm sitting beside him but my mind is with the people I have met that day. But he understands and he knows that it is important to me. He also knows I'm a workaholic and he can tell me when to stop. It's that partnership that is just beautiful."

Pete Byrne (37) is an SDLP councillor on Newry, Mourne and Down District Council. He married his husband Trevor Moore (32), a financial adviser from Dundalk, in 2012.

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Pete Byrne and husband Trevor Moore

Pete Byrne and husband Trevor Moore

Pete Byrne and husband Trevor Moore

"Trevor and I met online on a dating website in 2006," he says. "I had just split up with my girlfriend, for obvious reasons. And I met him in July. It was love at first sight, and as soon as I met him I knew he was the one. But I ran away to Australia because I couldn't deal with it.

"I was away for 15 months because I thought it was too big a deal. No one knew and I hadn't come out as gay, so I ran away from it. I spoke to Trevor every day on the phone when I was over there. I flew back 15 months later. He was in America at that stage and I went over to meet him. We came back together and we moved in together."

Pete says the most romantic thing he has ever done for his beloved was a 12-hour proposal of marriage. "I'm always the one who comes up with the mad romantic ideas," he says. "I gathered lots of photos of us from the last few years and put them together so that they would go all into a collage, a silhouette of a man on his knee proposing.

"And everything we did on the day we got engaged spelled out 'Will you marry me?'.

"We got married in Cala D'or in Spain in 2012. I didn't want the pressure of maybe some family not going. Some people weren't just as comfortable with it. But in the end the whole family flew over. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding."

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