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I've made the same journey as Schofield, reveals former PSNI officer

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Positive thing: Vincent Creelan

Positive thing: Vincent Creelan

Positive thing: Vincent Creelan

A Northern Ireland man has praised Phillip Schofield for publicly announcing that he is gay, as he recalled his own journey in coming out to his wife and family.

Vincent Creelan (58) has been in a civil partnership with his partner David McCauley (43) for 19 years and admits he is very happy and "very lucky" in life.

Things were not always so positive, however, for the ex-police officer from Newtownards, who had been married to his former wife until 1997.

"For me, back in the late Seventies and early Eighties there was nobody to talk to and it was illegal to be gay. When something is so integral to yourself, that was very difficult," he said.

"You have a constant internal dialogue and you hope it will change and then you find out that you just have to live with it. I didn't know anybody who was gay at that stage. It is a very isolated situation to be in."

Meeting his future wife at University of Ulster when the pair were students at the age of 20, the couple eventually had one son. Mr Creelan also forged a career within the RUC and PSNI, eventually reaching the rank of inspector, before his retirement a number of years ago.

Mr Creelan explained that it was the death of close gay friend in the force, Constable Darren Bradshaw, who was murdered in May 1997, which prompted him to announce his inner feelings to his family.

"I guess it was in 1997. I was in the police at that stage. For me I had wanted to do it for a long time, but it was the death of Darren and having to deal with that professionally that prompted me," he said.

"I was talking to my wife about him and his death and that's when we dealt with things.

"Her family reacted really badly at the time. We were still living together and trying to make things work.

"Once her family had found out, that became impossible. I was already not involved with my own family.

"You think you can make it work and when we separated our friends didn't know why. I suppose I thought maybe she might know, but she had no idea whatsoever. It was a very brutal discovery."

He added: "When it happened, I had a very negative reaction and so it cost a lot in terms of friends and family at the time. With me, nothing had been going on other than what was in my head. My son would have been about nine at that time.

"My wife and I had 50-50 child care and eventually when he was ready and wanted to ask the questions, he was told what the situation was.

"As a parent I didn't change. Just as I took being married seriously, I took the job of being a parent seriously."

From the difficult days of the past, Vincent now celebrates the immensely positive relationship he has with his son and grandson.

"I am in the very privileged position of being gay and being a parent and grandfather. I have a really great life with my partner," he said.

"I had a great career and I have a lovely family. As a 58-year-old now, the journey I have had the past 20 years is amazing. I am lucky I have a son who is 30 now and is one of my best friends. I look after my grandson very regularly.

"In that regard I am a firm believer that life gets better when you come out."

Giving his reaction to ITV host Schofield public announcement on Friday, the Newtownards man said the support shown to Mr Schofield could shine a light for others.

"He has obviously been having those discussions with his family, which is a mature thing to do," he added.

"I do think he is in a great position to really say that this is a good, positive thing. I think there a lot of men and women hiding their relationships, so if they see the support, that makes all the difference."

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