Belfast Telegraph

We've faced challenges over past decade: Famous Northern Ireland faces high hopes for 2020

Ken Reid with his wife Liz
Ken Reid with his wife Liz
Maxine Mawhinney
Roma Downey
Neal McClelland
Leona O'Neill

By Leona O'Neill

From health battles, expanding families and political woes, well-known Northern Ireland faces have been reflecting on their last 10 years and what lies ahead in 2020.

East Belfast woman Maxine Mawhinney (62) is one of the best-known journalists of our time, and as a BBC News anchorwoman delivered the news that Princess Diana had died.

The mum of two daughters and three grandchildren says she has had a "lively" decade and is looking forward to the next one.

"It has been a really busy decade for me," she said. "I celebrated 40 years in journalism. I left the BBC after 21 years.

"I got married. I got breast cancer and my daughter produced my three grandchildren. So personally and professionally it was quite the decade.

"It's also been the start of a new career speaking, hosting and writing. I've joined the senior faculty of the Karolinska Institutet University in Stockholm where I lecture in communications. I'm writing a fiction novel. I also turned 60 but as it's the new 40, I'm not slowing down at all," she said.

"Looking ahead, in 2020 I want to spend more time in Northern Ireland with my family and also bring friends there to show them all the fabulous things on offer."

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UTV political editor Ken Reid is looking forward to 2020 after the arrival of a new granddaughter.

The 64-year-old father-of-three has battled leukaemia, but is now back to health and back on our screens.

"On a personal note the past decade has inevitably had ups and downs," he said.

"Health-wise, it saw a cancer diagnosis and some pretty heavy chemo, a toe amputation and surgery, six months in a wheelchair and a leg bypass, something I would not recommend.

"On the plus side the treatment I've received has been world-class.

"Once or twice it was not certain a return to work would be possible but I made it.

"Work-wise it has been the decade of Brexit and a troubled Stormont. The end of a political age in many ways. As for the next decade, there are signs of a new generation of politicians coming through. Our future is in their hands.

"Brexit hasn't gone away and will continue to cause division and controversy. As for Stormont, we are now entering the last chance saloon.

"Family is my main priority and the birth of my first grandchild Summer was a remarkable experience. Roll on the next decade!"

Londonderry-born actress and movie producer Roma Downey (59) said she is looking forward to an exciting decade, packed with film and TV projects.

"A decade ago my kids were young teenagers and now they are all young adults," she said.

"So that was a big achievement, to raise a beautiful family. But seeing them grow up so fast makes you ask the question, 'Where does the time go?'

"Professionally, I am president of LightWorkers - the faith and family division of MGM Studios and I'm preparing to launch our LightWorkers streaming platform. I am super excited about that.

"Additionally we have a new show launching on Netflix on New Year's Day called Messiah, which I am also excited about.

"I love to travel and hope to get back to Northern Ireland in the summer. I have been gone many years, living most of my adult life here in the States, but I always love to get back to Ireland to see family and friends and water my roots in Derry."

Downtown Radio's Drivetime DJ Neal McClelland has an exciting decade planned. The 46-year-old said having children has instilled in him a fierce work ethic which will see him evolve even further professionally in the 2020s.

"The best thing about the last decade or so for me was definitely the birth of our children," he said. "We have got three children - Lottie who is 12, Jessica who is nine and Jude, who is seven years-old.

"They have filled our house with noise and madness, but becoming a father has really levelled me in the direction of where I need to go, from a work ethic point of view.

"We have moved house twice in the last decade and are still working on that. So it has just been really head down and continuing on.

"Last year I got my black belt in Japanese jiu-jitsu, so this year I'm going for my second. It will also be about less alcohol, more training and healthier eating.

"The next decade will be a really exciting one for me. The work I do with Downtown Radio is very much ongoing, but I'm also working on other projects and courses revolving around mental health, DJing and music. I would like to keep doing that."

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