Belfast Telegraph

Eamonn Holmes: Throughout my entire career I've pushed for Northern Ireland. This OBE is for all of us, not just me

By Ivan Little

Eamonn Holmes has said he is accepting his OBE on behalf of everyone in Northern Ireland.

The 58-year-old Belfast presenter is named in the New Year Honours for services to broadcasting ­­­- recognising a career that has seen him on TV screens across the UK since the 1980s.

"It's for all of us and not just me," said Eamonn, who revealed that his wife Ruth Langsford became emotional after he told her about the gong.

He added: "Ruth was overjoyed for me and I hope everyone in Northern Ireland will be pleased too."

But acknowledging that the honours system has its critics in some quarters here, Eamonn - a former pupil of St Malachy's College - added: "If there are some people who aren't happy that's fine too, I will totally respect their opinions.

"But through my entire career I have pushed for Northern Ireland, I have promoted Northern Ireland, and I have fought for programmes to be made in Northern Ireland.

"I have also tried to help and advise people at home and have expressed my concerns about the state of broadcasting, which is shrinking and reducing the possibilities and opportunities for people who want to get into the business like I did.

"But my main priority has always been to fly the flag for Northern Ireland."

Eamonn, who is one of Britain's most popular and busiest broadcasters, said he believed the recognition from Buckingham Palace was rooted in his early career in his native Belfast with Ulster Television during some of the darkest days of the Troubles.

As a raw and inexperienced 21-year-old former journalist student, he hosted the Good Evening Ulster teatime news bulletin, taking over the mantle from Gloria Hunniford.

He said: "Looking back at that time I can scarcely believe that I got a job, first as a 19-year-old reporter in UTV and then found myself hosting a news bulletin every evening at the age of 21.

"Just two years later I was presenting a live general election programme.

"It simply wouldn't happen today. And in hindsight it scares me to try to figure out how it all happened. But I was extremely lucky to be in the right place at the right time and to get such a springboard at such an early age.

"Nothing would have happened for me across the water if I hadn't got that break at UTV."

He said he still took nothing for granted even though he's been an ever-present on TV for almost 40 years.

He said: "Getting on television is very hard, staying on it is even harder.

"But this honour must be some kind of acknowledgement that I'm doing something right"

Just two months ago Hunniford received an OBE at the Palace, while another Good Evening Ulster stalwart Jackie Fullerton is an MBE.

Eamonn added: "It's quite amazing that the three of us who were involved in that same programme have now been honoured."

But he said he didn't see the OBE as a final chapter in his long and successful career

He added: "Some people have wondered if this is the cherry on the cake.

"But to me it's the tiger in my tank.

"I know I've been broadcasting for nearly four decades but I still feel as if I'm only in my 20s.

"I still have a lot to do and so I don't see this honour as a culmination to anything.

"To me it's a fantastic recognition.

"It's like being called into the head teacher's office and being given a gold star for course work."

Observers have said that one of his major strengths as a broadcaster has been his ability to present live shows like Open Air, BBC Breakfast, GMTV, Sky News and This Morning.

He said: "I've been on screen for five days a week for 38 years so I have probably entered the nation's psyche.

"It's not as if I'm particularly good at anything.

"I've probably become part of the fabric of life. And that's a great compliment.

"Some people are just on the telly for four or five years but to stay there is something that I am proud about

"And that's why Ruth became so emotional on hearing about my honour because she realises just how tough it is to stay relevant in our business."

Eamonn is, however, facing a dilemma over his OBE - about who to take with him to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony in the spring.

He added: "I'm told you only get two tickets for the day.

"My daughter Rebecca will probably be top of the list because she is fascinated with the royals.

"And I think my son Jack would like to go too.

"So Ruth may have to step aside unless we can get a third ticket.

"But we'll all have a little celebration afterwards and I will take great delight that somebody, somewhere took a look in my direction and thought: 'Well done you, that was all right'."

Eamonn, who has homes in Surrey and Belfast, is close to his mother and four brothers.His late father was a carpet fitter and Eamonn has talked fondly in the past of growing up off the Oldpark Road in a loving environment where money wasn't plentiful but his parents set their sons very high standards.

The broadcaster said the eruption of the Troubles meant his teenage years weren't as happy as his boyhood days. And he likened living in Belfast to living in a war zone.

He said he still counts his brothers as his best friends who, like him and his four children, are all diehard fans of Manchester United.

Belfast Telegraph

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