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'Proposing to Linda is the perfect end to a grim year'

Continuing our Christmas series on people with cause to celebrate 2020


Happy couple: Stephen Hollywood and Linda Ni Chianain

Happy couple: Stephen Hollywood and Linda Ni Chianain

Happy couple: Stephen Hollywood and Linda Ni Chianain

A couple who got engaged this month have said it is a memorable end to a difficult year.

Stephen Hollywood (38), who works for restorative justice, got engaged to Linda Ni Chianain, who is originally from Galway and studying for a Phd at Queen's University, on December 16.

They lived in north Belfast before relocating to their new home this month in Holywood, Co Down, where Stephen popped the big question.

He said: "I've been with Linda for about two and a half years. It had been in my mind to propose to her and obviously 2020 has been a really crappy year.

"I'm still working every day in restorative justice and we work with the police and go into schools to safety sessions and things like that, victim mediation. With the lockdown we changed tack and have been delivering food packages to vulnerable people in areas of social deprivation.

"That has been pretty heavy and we've just moved house as well and I thought it would be a nice end to the year by proposing. I just thought it would be a nice early Christmas present.

"It was difficult to choose how I was going to pop the question. I was obviously very limited on what I could do; I couldn't fly away to Rome or any other romantic places to do it.

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"So I thought proposing in our new home had a good ring to it.

"I had thought about going down to the Holywood pier but the weather the night I proposed was horrendous.

"The ring arrived the day I was planning to propose and it was burning a hole in my pocket, I was that nervous.

"So I just ordered in some nice food from a restaurant and opened up a bottle and had some romantic music on. And I proposed there and then. I'm sure it was written on my face that I was nervous about something but Linda didn't catch on.

"When I proposed, Linda was shocked and crying.

It's our brand new home. It was perfect. I was delighted when she said yes - I knew she was going to say yes anyway!"

Stephen says his fiancee was up to the early hours on the phone letting family and friends know the good news.

He adds: "This year has been difficult professionally; I haven't had it as bad as people who've been laid off. We're luckily still in employment but it's about how others have been affected.

"We've been delivering food packages and just hearing some of the people's stories has been horrendous.

"I've met people in their homes who haven't eaten for days on end, they're that badly off. I think for everybody it's been bit of a grim a year, and I'm no different.

"But for me getting engaged has been a great end to the year. It was 100% the highlight of my year.

"What better way to christen a new home than to propose in it? It's our home now.

"It's our future. Hopefully we've more happy memories to come in it."

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