Friday 14 December 2018

Miriam O'Callaghan: 'I have no regrets. I feel really relieved I wasn't in the Áras race'

The presenter is relieved also not to have inflicted a 'horrible' election campaign on her family, writes Niamh Horan

Miriam O’Callaghan in Dublin Castle during the presidential election count. Photo Gerry Mooney
Miriam O’Callaghan in Dublin Castle during the presidential election count. Photo Gerry Mooney
Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Listener figures on Sean O'Rourke's Radio 1 morning show may have jumped by 10,000 after Miriam O'Callaghan took over for the summer months but the RTE star is refusing to take any credit.

Despite presenting for eight of the 12-week period that the JNLR figures cover, Miriam was loath to say she played any hand, act or part in the results.

Instead she put it all down to a good team and the luck of the draw.

Speaking from Dublin Castle yesterday afternoon, she said: "I am always absolutely terrified of the JNLR figures. I don't like them. At least in TV you get them straight away and - if they're bad - then the next night you can get a good result again, but the JNLR figures are [only out] every three months."

But she said: "Look, the figures have nothing to do with me. They are really down to the great show that Sean has built. He is a brilliant broadcaster and he has an A team."

When pressed on her role, she said: "They could have just as easily have gone down. They are a lottery. It's a brilliant show and I feel privileged to present it again this week."

During her summer stint, Miriam conducted a number of headline-grabbing interviews.

At the start of July, her conversation with the late Emma Mhic Mhathuna, in which the young mother revealed that her cancer had spread to her brain, moved the nation to tears. Then, in August, her interview with homeless mum-of-seven Margaret Cash broke the news that the Government had finally offered her family a home.

Her third big scoop came a week later, when a one-to-one with the 'singing priest' Fr Michael Cleary's youngest son Ross Hamilton saw the young man open up about his homeless situation. During the discussion, he also revealed how he had been targeted by the paedophile cleric Tony Walsh when he was in hospital.

Former RTE director-general Noel Curran once said he believed a major contributory factor to the station's flagship current affairs show Prime Time - and its continuing viability - was down to "the Miriam factor".

Asked for her view on that, she said: "I feel flattered and honoured and humbled but I think it's ultimately down to a brilliant team and Prime Time again is down to good journalism and I just feel honoured to be part of that."

But as she took up her position on stage to present the live coverage of yesterday's election results, the big question on everyone's lips was how she feels this weekend, having not taken part in the bruising campaign.

"I am so happy this morning that I am here presenting the coverage and interviewing candidates - I have no regrets," she said. "I feel really relieved actually... that I wasn't in the race."

Asked why, she said: "Say no more. I'm just so happy I wasn't in that race and I feel happy I am the interviewer here this morning. I feel blessed I have a career that seems to stay strong and I love it and I wouldn't want to sacrifice that for anything."

Asked if she would run in the next election, she said: "I'm here without even having broadcast the results to the presidential election 2018. Lord knows what will happen in 2025!" On whether she would rule it out, she said: "I wouldn't rule anything out in life."

Asked if she had learned anything from the race she said: "I sure have... it just reminds me of what a horrible campaign it is. And I think anyone who is thinking of running would have to think long and hard about inflicting that on your family, especially on your loved ones and your children, so you would have to think very long and hard about it. Especially if you have young children. It's a very difficult campaign."

Last September, following his break away, Sean O'Rourke also credited his crew with the show's success. He said: "It's a great team of people and it's great to be going back to them."

Miriam will be back presenting Today with Sean O'Rourke on RTE Radio 1 tomorrow morning at 10am.

Sunday Independent

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