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My hopes for 2007

Travel, world peace, Man United to win the treble? Gráinne McCarry finds out about the New Year dreams of some of Ulster's famous faces, while two Belfast Telegraph writers, Jane Bell and Eddie McIlwaine, look back on what 2006 meant to them

BBC Newsline's Sarah Travers (32) lives in Portstewart, Co Antrim with her partner Stephen and two children Jack (9) and Evie (3). She says:

To begin with, a healthy, happy year for all my family and also, a safe arrival for my sister's first baby, which is due very soon.

I'm aiming to have a less frenetic year than 2006 with a few nice breaks in between all the work. I want to see more of Ireland in 2007, so I'm making a resolution to visit more places here.

My mum is having her 60th birthday in 2007 and we hope to have a family get-together and a good old knees-up.

Workwise, it would be nice to broadcast more 'good news' stories in the next year compared to last year. A lottery win or a windfall of some kind would be good, too.

Belfast author and playwright Lucy Caldwell (24) had an extremely busy 2006, publishing and promoting her first novel Where They Were Missed (shortlisted for the prestigious Dylan Thomas award). She also won the George Devine award for her first full length play, Leaves. She says:

2006 was such a crazy year for me and, looking at my diary, 2007 is set to be even more busy! It was a year of firsts - my first book published, my first play Leaves getting accepted - and now,in 2007, it opens at the Druid Theatre, Galway, in March, then moves to the Royal Court in London. I really hope everything goes well.

After that I'm off to Inis Meáin on the west coast of Ireland to finish off my second play, which is a commission based on Seamus Heaney's Bog Poems.

On a personal level, I'm looking forward to organising more things to do with my sister Faye. I live with her in London and my best friend is moving back to London in the coming year, so I'm really looking forward to that.

I hope the Assembly at Stormont gets back up and running again. I recently had to write about the situation in Northern Ireland and when I was doing my research everyone I interviewed said that they hoped that we would be more in control of our affairs instead of everything being directed from London.

Sir Hugh Orde (47), Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, is looking forward to the New Year. He says:

My hopes for '07? I think, professionally, I'd like to see far more widespread support for policing, and Sinn Fein on the policing board. We've made good progress on that front in recent meetings. And I'd like to see us moving the world on. That's my wish: to spend more time looking forwards not backwards. Personally, no, not holidays - this is a fairly full-time job. I've been here five years since last September and would like to think we consider what we're delivering and how to get better.

Actor Conleth Hill (42), from Ballycastle, Co Antrim, is currently starring as Ivan in The Seafarer at the National Theatre, London. He says:

I hope the politicians start earning their money. I'd like to see Man United win the treble, that would be great. Also, if we could have the same weather this summer as we did in 2006. Lastly, I hope that theatre at home will get a higher profile.

Mother-of-seven Eileen Calder (47) is a volunteer with the Rape Crisis and Sexual Abuse Centre. She says:

I hope that in 2007 we will be moving closer to a world where sexual violence doesn't happen and where women and children are safe in this society.

Poet Medbh McGuckian (56) lives in Belfast with husband John and has four grown-up children. She teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen's University, Belfast. Medbh says:

I'd like to see the people that most need money, care and attention in this world receiving it. Also, I hope that the vulnerable people in society are more protected ... that people would find more to do with their lives than going out robbing and attacking people.

Global warming is something that concerns me greatly and more efforts to tackle that issue and people taking a greater interest in the environment would be good. There are so many cars on the roads today and the number of accidents is just awful.

I do hope that everyone has a happy, peaceful new year and that all the wars and genocide stop. We need to look after one another better and show more love.

SDLP MLA Sean Farren (67) announced his retirement from politics earlier this month. He lives in Portstewart, Co Antrim, with wife Patricia and has three grown-up daughters, one son and one granddaughter, Norah. He says:

I hope and indeed expect that we would have our assembly, the Executive, the North/South Ministerial Councils and all other aspects of the Good Friday Agreement up and running again in 2007.

My own personal decision not to run again (for an Assembly seat) means I'm forcing myself into a career change ... I've a number of projects in mind and certainly won't be idle, I'm not retiring in that sense.

I will be spending more time with my family, my wife and children and now that I'm a grandfather I'll be devoting some of my attention to Norah, the first child of my daughter Orla and her husband Alex Attwood.

I hope to return to Africa, where I worked as a teacher at the beginning of my professional life. I'd like to go back to Sierra Leone in West Africa, in particular, and make a contribution there working with political parties struggling with democracy.

UTV veteran newsreader Kate Smith is married to Michelin starred chef Michael Deane with one child Marco (6). She says:

In terms of family life we've had a great year and I hope that continues. We have a holiday home in Provence so I hope to spend more time over there.

My French isn't too bad, I find once I'm over there I get on ok. Marco's French is coming on well; he's picking up quite a few words and it's amazing to see him chatting to his little friends. Obviously, they don't understand everything each other is saying, but it's great to see it.

Career-wise, I'd love to learn more computer skills. I know enough to get by, but I have never attended a course and that is something I would like to do.

One of my Christmas presents from Michael was membership to a gym, so I'm going to get fit and take better care of myself.

Also, to be a good wife and mother ... saying that might get me some chocolates and champagne.

East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell (53) is married to Frances and has one son and three daughters. He says:

On a personal level, I would like to continue my drive to get fit, which I took up a few years ago.

It was rather tongue-in-cheek to begin with, but now it is quite serious. I'm reasonably well organised and I'm a member of the gym at Westminister.

I work my visits around my schedule quite well but when I get back home my organisation disintegrates somewhat. I really need to join a local gym. I've a terribly sweet tooth that's my problem - I can't resist anything sweet!

I'm a very keen football fan and would like to attend more games.

Obviously, with my schedule, this isn't always possible, but I would like to see some more Irish League games and I'm a keen Glasgow Rangers fan, also.

If they made it through to the UEFA Cup final that would be a game I would love to see. Going back and forth to Westminister, I already do quite a bit of travelling, but a couple of short breaks with my wife would be good.

It would be nice to spend a few days relaxing. I'd love to spend more time with my family and my extended family, also, but I don't know whether or not I will achieve that.

The year of our Lord of no ego

Eddie McIlwaine hopes some people will be left to rest in peace

I'm loitering on a street corner, relaying events from the funeral of a colleague, to a friend who couldn't be there. I ask him as a favour: " Look, when I die, make sure there are no hymns at my burial, no mourners crying and above all no overheated eulogy."

Perhaps I am a little bit too loud with my proclamation, for an attractive girl, a stranger passing by, gives me a cursory glance and without a pause in her step declares: "Sure there might be nobody there anyway."

That incident was a cornerstone of my 2006.

You see, one thing I've definitely got over in this year of our Lord is ego. And that young lady with her penetrating aside definitely helped. So, for the certain reason that I don't need the image I have of myself massaged, this has been a very good year.

I have to confess that last year when invitations came in to address gatherings, write vital epistles on God, global warming, the cooling of political relationships or appear on televison and radio I was able to be selective and ignore the ones that were an inconvenience.

You'll know when you see my byline on a news story in 2007, it's worth reading. I'm concentrating my pen only on unputdownable stories nowadays.

If I sound a wee bit selfish, well, I was asked to explain how 2006 was for me and this is the ungarnished truth. And, no, I didn't write my memoirs for the simple reason that I've seen too many biographies by sportsmen and broadcasters and journalists who should have known better, piled high in the bookshops with too few purchasers in sight.

Mind you, 2006 wasn't all sweetness and light. Like others of my ilk, life for me was dramatically shaped by the Troubles. After listening to our late and forgotten Prime Minister Captain Terence O'Neill asking us in a famous television broadcast nearly 40 years ago what kind of Ulster we wanted, I and thousands like me resolved to put up with the bad times in anticipation of a better day.

When the better day came, yes, it was great that the terrorist killings ceased. Yet fast forward to 2006 and it wasn't so special that my rates increased three-fold, new planning laws in my district were treated as a joke (and still are), that the streets remained as unsafe as they were in '76 and that political standards were lowered beyond belief.

The mobile library man only calls once every five weeks now, for goodness sake, instead of every fortnight at the height of the terror times, road maintenance doesn't exist nor does street lighting, water charges are on the horizon and when there's a bank holiday to upset the schedules you never see the binmen for weeks on end.

All trivial and minor in the broader picture, I admit ... if my essential services can be described as trivial.

In short, in 2006 I was let down and so were all of us who suffered the Northern Ireland war.

Like I've already intimated, though, from the higher ground this past year wasn't a bad old span, and I'm thankful for good health, a happy family and the freedom to write like this.

And I really must make a resolution to stop grousing.

Before I do, however, one wish for 2007. I want George Best and Caron Keating to be allowed to rest in peace. I was acquainted with and had respect for both of them, especially George and in his life he was never the bore he is fast becoming now after his passing.

You can't pick up a newspaper without reading about either one of them. The Best and Keating stories are going over the top.

It can all go too far, you know, and people are already getting jaded at the mention of their names.

Restore George and Caron to the bosoms of their families with their private grief and thoughts before it is too late.

New year! Where did 2006 go?

What's another year? Jane Bell marks family milestones and rites of passage

Is it me, or did 2006 shrink in the wash? I'm sure a good few months got lost down the back of our sofa. New Year again already. How did that happen? The days, weeks and months sped past, time flying like one of those desk calendars from the props department in a 1940s movie.

I'm not keen on change - very prudently treating it with the suspicion it deserves. Yet change keeps on happening. This year our one and only daughter left home, for university across the water. It seemed like a good idea when we were actively encouraging it and helping her along.

But, driving away from that distant campus, I felt robbed - and not only of the handbags, belts and earrings of mine she decided to take with her. Still, we have, as they say, gained a bathroom.

There have been other milestones and rites of passage. Both grannies turned 80 this year and we've had a 21st and an 18th birthday (not to mention a 9th and a 7th).

Both lovely old ladies have been a terrible drain on the Health Service, in and out of hospital this year more often than the MRSA bug. OK, that was a cheap joke. I can truly say they received the very best skill and care.

On hearing that her granddaughter was starting the long haul of a medical degree, Granny, sitting up in bed after a complicated heart op, quipped: " Good. Tell her to hurry up."

That's the same Granny who, on a pre-Christmas cemetery visit, surveyed the ranks of headstones and remarked: "It's getting very built-up." A reminder, if such were needed, that it's always later than you think.

I would have liked to have travelled more in 2006 but, while we wore our passports out in 2005, this year we stayed at home.

It was like being wheel- clamped. Instead, there were streams of visitors, from England, Poland, Canada and New Zealand.

There was nothing else for it but to be hospitable. I mean, you can't close the curtains and pretend to be out for all of July and August. But, if it happens again, I'm billing the Northern Ireland Tourist Board.

And the news gets no better. Beyond exasperation with self-serving politicians, I can't watch Hearts and Minds, Newsnight or Question Time without yelling at the television, while those Grumpy Old Women steal the words right out of my mouth.

The news items of the year that resonate most with us are those that play on our underlying fears.

The random act of street violence that leaves a young lawyer stabbed to death in the gutter for a mobile phone and twenty quid, yards from the safety of his home.

A little brother and sister suffocated by gas fumes in their holiday villa. Teenage lives wiped out by a moment's inattention on the roads.

And how can it happen that a little girl who grew up with ballet classes and Brownies ends up a drug-addicted prostitute murdered and dumped in a winter field?

To keep sane, it's important to remember that the checks and balances to all this bleakness rarely make the news: the countless small acts of kindness, the everyday miracles, the tales of survival against the odds.

As the man said, it's still a wonderful life. And it's easy to feel happier about welcoming in another New Year when you consider the alternative. Have a good one.

Belfast Telegraph

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