Kenneth Branagh leads Northern Ireland Queen's Birthday honours list

media caption"I feel very humble, I feel elated"

Hollywood actor Kenneth Branagh leads the list of Northern Ireland names on this year's Queens Birthday honours list.

The Belfast-born star is to be given a knighthood for his services to drama.

Radio Ulster's Wendy Austin will receive an MBE for her contribution to broadcasting, while Johnny Graham - the principal of Belfast Model School for Girls will be awarded an OBE.

In all 86 people from Northern Ireland received honours.

Branagh, the Oscar-nominated actor, director and screenwriter, was also recognised for his services to the community of Northern Ireland.

"My heart's fit to burst. I feel humble, elated, and incredibly lucky," he said.

"When I was a kid I dreamed of pulling on a shirt for the Northern Ireland football team.

"I could only imagine how proud you might feel. Today it feels like they just gave me the shirt."

Branagh moved to Reading when he was still in primary school, but has credited his Irish background for his love of language.

He studied at Rada before learning his trade on the stage where he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) before going on to form his own theatre company.


Mr Graham, the principal of Girl's Model, said his OBE reflected the work carried out by everyone at the school.

"When the letter came through the door it was shock and then it was pride," he said.

"It's just a great pleasure that you've been recognised for your work, not just myself but also the whole school, because we've been working very hard with the community.

John Rodgers, chairman of the Children to Lapland Trust, will be given an MBE.

The charity takes terminally and children with long-term illnesses to Lapland to see Father Christmas.

"It gives us a royal stamp more or less," Mr Rodgers said.

"A stamp of approval that what we're doing is right and keep on going and let's take a larger plane or maybe take a couple of planes up each year."

Joan Burney-Keatings of the Cinemagic charity will be awarded an MBE.

"It really is incredible for the charity," she said.

"We hope that it will help continue to raise the profile, both here and internationally and hopefully make lots of good things come from it."


Radio Ulster's Wendy Austin has been involved in broadcasting for 35 years, much of it as presenter of Good Morning Ulster.

She is currently the presenter of Talkback.

Three PSNI officers have been awarded the Queen's Police Medal, while Brian McNeill, the director of operations of the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, is among the first recipients of a new award - the Queen's Ambulance Medal for Distinguished Service (QAM).

It is the first time such an award has been included in the Queens Birthday honours list and places ambulance personnel on a par with staff in both the police and fire and rescue services.

Mr McNeill, who joined the Ambulance Service in 1983, said: "I am lucky to have spent 26 years working in the ambulance service with dedicated and caring people.

"I am aware that this award, although given to me personally, is a tribute to all my colleagues who help the most vulnerable in our society."

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