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Aisling O'Loughlin's annus mirabilis

The summer of last year might have been one of the toughest of Aisling O'Loughlin's life - her partner, Nick McInnes, was diagnosed with cancer and in the midst of it all she had a new baby - Louis Alexander - and a three-year-old, Patrick, to mind.

But since then things have looked up on all fronts for the charismatic and talented Clare woman. Nick was given the all-clear from his illness late last year, and in the meantime TV3 has handily held off the challenge of UTV Ireland with Xpose, which she co-presents, consolidating its position as the most popular celebrity news programme on Irish television. "It wasn't even necessarily the worst year, but it was pretty challenging", the 37-year-old says. "I had a new baby, so it wasn't all bad. Myself and Nick even had a laugh through his cancer at times."

We often hear about how a crisis, such as cancer, brings people closer together but it must have been tough on her relationship too? "Definitely. I'm no Florence Nightingale, I can tell you that. I had my own pressures, I was the one getting up in the middle of the night since both children were born. When you don't sleep, everything is harder. When you have a few hours (of sleep) you're more patient and diplomatic and all of that."

Nick has two sons from a previous relationship and Aisling says that his experience as a father was one of the keys to getting through the tough times last year. "I do believe in that idea that it takes a village to raise a child, whether you buy that help or you have it in the family. Nick is a great hands-on dad, he is my top help, he changes nappies and makes dinners and he's very much a modern dad. I learned a lot of what I know about parenting from him because, of course, he had two boys, who are now 10 and 12, so he knew a lot more than me when we were starting out. Also, his advice was helpful in terms of pacing yourself and not losing your patience."

The endless balancing act that women are expected to manage is naturally a subject she's thought about but she doesn't place too much stock in celebrity advice, particularly that of Sheryl Sandberg who urges women to rely on spousal support while 'leaning in' - i.e. working as hard as you can. ""Yes, I saw that, Stella McCartney says the same thing. Well, the thing about both of them is that they're very rich and I don't like taking advice from rich people. Not every woman wants to lean in; sometimes you want to lean back and spend a bit more time with your kids ... you want to be there to put them to bed, or just to even sit down and have dinner with them. Time is everything and someone who is wealthy as they are doesn't have to deal with a lot of the normal day-to-day practicalities that the rest of us do."

Aisling grew up in Shannon, Co Clare, before going to secondary school in Limerick. After studying journalism at DCU, she joined Clare FM and worked in local print media until she joined TV3 in 2001. She thinks the recent entry of UTV into the domestic TV market has been a good thing for TV3. "It really has been great because it meant that everyone had to up their game. We've got Red Rock, which is a great production, with very high standards, Xpose has gone to an hour (in length) and TV3 has overall grown up a lot. We've had to adapt constantly. It's been do or die."

And while the last few years have seen a flurry of nuptials on the Xpose set with co-presenters Glenda Gilson and Karen Koster getting married. Aisling says she's in no hurry to follow suit. "A wedding itself, as in the party element of it, wouldn't even register on my radar", she says. "I couldn't care less about throwing a big party for everyone." And as regards the religious and family elements of marriage she's also ambivalent. "We had a Catholic past where everyone was expected to get married. We all grew up with that. And I understand why people would want that kind of stability. But, to be honest, I am in no great rush. We're a very open family, a modern family, and we're very happy as we are."

Xpose is on TV3 nightly at 6pm.

Sunday Independent