Northern Ireland

BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback has five of the best for Christmas

Martina Purdy with William Crawley
Image caption Martina Purdy is back on air with William Crawley

A former political journalist turned nun, an architect of the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland's football manager are among a group of prominent people opening up to BBC Radio Ulster over Christmas.

BBC Talkback has a series of five in-depth interviews starting on Christmas Eve.

The subjects are Ian Paisley's widow Baroness Paisley, former BBC journalist - now nun - Martina Purdy, former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon, former PSNI deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie and Northern Ireland football manager Michael O'Neill.

They will all give their thoughts on Northern Ireland society as well as their own lives.

Conducting the interviews is BBC Talkback presenter William Crawley.

"We always like to give people something different at Christmas. Instead of having highlights of the year, that kind of thing, it's an opportunity to get deeper into somebody's life, to find out a bit more about the textures of somebody's life, rather that just what we know about them," he said.

"It's a pretty diverse group of people and they have different perspectives about where this society is going.

"We've asked them to think of Northern Ireland in terms of New Year's resolutions - what are their hopes for this place, how do we improve this place?"

Image copyright ©William Cherry / Presseye
Image caption Michael O'Neill talks life and football

William said that all five had been great to interview.

"Some of them are really personal, some of them really open up and tell you about their personal life."

Going for a song

All five interviewees also chose five tracks of music and William said their choices told a lot about them.

"For example, you might think that a nun is going to chose Ave Maria - but not when the nun is Martina Purdy," he said.

"The songs are often very personal. For example Baroness Paisley chose a piece of music that was performed at the funeral of Ian Paisley, but was also performed at the wedding of one of her daughters."

He said there were a number of highlights that stood out from the interviews.

"A standout in the politics issue is Seamus Mallon talking about how the Good Friday Agreement came about," he said.

"He says all the parties were involved in two years of negotiations, but Sinn Féin, he says, had already done all of their negotiating before the beginning of the rest of the talks. They had negotiated with the British government, the Irish government and the American government, they had an understanding, they knew what they wanted, they knew what they were getting.

Image caption Seamus Mallon talked about how the Good Friday Agreement came about

"So I said to him 'are you saying it was a stitch-up?' and he smiles and says something to the effect of 'that's one way of putting it'."

He said Martina Purdy's story is a much more personal and spiritual journey.

"That's the one I was, in a sense, most looking forward to, because the last time I saw Martina Purdy, she looked like the Martina Purdy I remember and she was a journalist," William said.

"Next time I see her, she's dressed as a religious sister looking very different - she describes it as a make-over in reverse.

"What a lot of people want to know is why would you do that. Why would you make that journey?"

The first Talkback interview will be with Martina Purdy on 24 December, followed by Seamus Mallon, Michael O'Neill, Judith Gillespie and Baroness Paisley from 28-31 December.