Saturday 17 March 2018

Fiona came home from Australia for the weather

Fiona Ni Fhlaithearta had been homesick on and off for a lot of her stint in Perth in Western Australia. Then she had a baby, a little girl named Niamh, and everything changed. "It was the strangest thing" she says. "As soon as you have a child you're busy with bottles and everything, you just don't have time for feelings like that. I didn't want people coming in on top of me, god forgive me. I didn't have any relatives there but I did have good friends around me."

Far from home and at one of the most challenging points in her young life, Fiona was also faced with having to deal with the vagaries of Australian bureaucracy. The system for citizenship and residency is different Down Under, she points out. "Because we weren't permanent residents, she wouldn't have become a permanent resident either, so (Niamh) has an Ozzie birth cert but an Irish passport, if that makes sense."

She had brought Niamh home to Connemara to be christened in 2012 and during the visit reached out to TG4, who had previously expressed an interest in hiring her after she sent them a video of herself. After she returned again from Australia she met representatives from the channel and things began to progress. Last year they took her on as a weather presenter and since then she has been lighting up screens with her good looks, onscreen charisma and fashion forward dress sense. She's also been balancing her work with motherhood.

"I did about three weeks of shadowing presenters in TG4 and I found that fairly tough, just having to get up in the morning", she says. "You learn fairly quickly that you have to be organised from the night before. Now if I know I have a work event then I have my babysitters set up and it's all grand. But I don't want to sound like I have it all figured out: that's just one kid, ask me again if I ever have another child!"

Fiona grew up in Connemara, a fluent Irish speaker as you would expect, and had something of an 'in' in journalism as her father works for Radio Na Gaeltachta and her brother has a position with a production company there. "I knew I would do something in media or showbusiness. I used to do Sean Nos singing and I really enjoyed that", she says. "I'm not sure about making a living from pop music though. Rather than go the X-Factor route I'd love to put an album together singing covers by singers like Sinatra, Bing Crosby, that kind of thing."

She went to a local branch of the NUI in Galway to study communications, she was part of the first graduating class to do the degree through Irish, but lived at home while that was going on. "It was quite cushy", she laughingly recalls, "there were some of the perks of getting looked after, although living at home does detract somewhat from the college experience."

She decided to go to Australia in 2010. "There wasn't much happening at the time and I suppose I wasn't very patient", she says. "I was working as a tour guide in Ros Muc. I always presumed something would come to me. When it didn't come quickly I just decided to get out."

Although she loved her time away she dreamed of returning to Ireland to build a career in something that would fulfil her. Now that she's got onto the first rung of the TV ladder, she says she wants to go further. "I suppose I'd really like to get more experience and to get into presenting. It is a visual medium and the tendency might be to be very critical of yourself. But although I do like to take care of myself and make sure my skin and hair and all of that looks good, at the end of the day it's about the job you're doing and I'm more worried if I mess up the weather than if my hair is messed up!"

Fiona has been nominated for a VIP style award. An Aimsir Laithreach is on weeknights on TG4 at 7.26pm


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