James Martin’s childhood sweetheart speaks of her pride at Oscar win

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James Martin’s childhood sweetheart has described being filled with pride as she watched him pick up an Oscar for the short film An Irish Goodbye.

Barbara Norris and Martin have been in a relationship for 14 years, but knew each other as young children attending the same nursery school.

She watched at home in Belfast thousands of miles away while her boyfriend walked the red carpet for the star-studded ceremony, and described it as amazing.

Martin became the first person with Down’s syndrome to win at the Academy Awards.

“I had to help him relax, from the very, very beginning, he had some butterflies in his tummy, he said to me he needed my voice to relax him, and then afterwards he got confident and said he had done what he had to do,” she told the PA news agency.

“I am proud of him for going through all that.”

Barbara also has a passion for drama, and said she hopes his success will bring opportunities for her also.

“We knew each other since nursery, we decided to become an item in 2009, he got me involved in Babosh Drama Group, with the Monday night classes, so I’m hoping there will be doors opening for me as much as for him,” she said.

“It sends out a positive message to the disability community because it shows society that more people like him should be doing more things like this, and have greater opportunities, to show that people like us can do them.

“It’s pointing that out to society that people who have multi disabilities can be looked upon as actors and actresses, and people can do things like that.”

Barbara said the role in An Irish Goodbye was far from a bit part, that it was a meaty role and demanding for Martin to become one of two estranged brothers who come together after their mother’s death to fulfil her bucket list.

“It was a little difficult from the point of view that he had to go through that storyline in the movie, and it was hard going for the storyline but at the same time they pulled it out of the bag, he was brilliant,” she said.

“It was a heart-warming story and I really loved it. It shows more people like him can do everything.

“He’s gone through a rollercoaster ride with doing so many things, I’m just really, really proud of what he has achieved.”

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