Thursday 20 September 2018

‘Some people say really vile and crude things’ – TV3's Muireann O’Connell talks trolls, and how she deals with them

The TV and radio presenter talks Today FM transition, trolls, and how the experience of redundancy 'steeled' her

Muireann O'Connell
Muireann O'Connell
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Muireann O’Connell has revealed her unique approach to dealing with trolls.

The Six O’Clock show presenter’s TV3 colleagues Maura Derrane and Elaine Crowley have recently spoken about their experiences of online abuse, which usually revolves around their outfit choices and physical appearance.

“I do this thing where if there’s something someone has written and I want to have a smart ass reply that someone might not like me replying, I’ll type it and then delete it,” she tells Independent.ie at the launch of TV3’s rebranding announcement.

“It works even if it’s a text message to your mam.  I type it and delete it and I feel like it’s out of my system a little bit and that is quite cathartic.”

While the majority of comments from people on social media revolve around whether or not they like her outfit of the day, which she shares on Instagram, Muireann has been subjected to some more troubling abuse.

“Some people can be quite disgusting, saying really vile and crude things,” she says and recalls one young man whose comment was particularly disturbing.

“This one stayed with me, because I don’t really pay much attention, but he asked me was I pregnant one day and the next day he said, ‘Yeah, it looks like you’re pregnant.  You need to get that baby f***** out of you’,” she reveals.

“The next day he said, ‘Tell me are you pregnant? What’s going on?’ so I got onto Instagram to tell him what a period was and what happens during a period, ‘so, right now inside my body there is a war going on to the bloody death, literally, and that happens every once in a while with all the woman that you see on TV, or has happened to them in the past, or will happen in the future’.

Muireann O'Connell and Martin King on The Six O'Clock Show on TV3
Muireann O'Connell and Martin King on The Six O'Clock Show on TV3

“It did shut him up a little bit,” she adds.  Many of her female followers praised her for explaining it to him as they were equally as disturbed by his comments.

“I didn’t do it to try to be mean to him.  He needed an explanation,” she says matter-of-factly. 

Recently she did a podcast with the comedian Alison Spittle and they discussed the fact that a man has dedicated a YouTube channel to clips of Irish TV presenters wearing leather.  A clip of Muireann on The Six O’Clock show clad in leather trousers is one of the latest additions.

“You do put up with some creepy stuff,” she says with a raised eyebrow.

Muireann O'Connell and Orlagh Donnelly at the Summer Solstice party at Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort to celebrate the launch of its new Garden Rooms & Bar. Picture: Kieran Harnett
Muireann O'Connell and Orlagh Donnelly at the Summer Solstice party at Druids Glen Hotel & Golf Resort to celebrate the launch of its new Garden Rooms & Bar. Picture: Kieran Harnett

It has been something of a whirlwind year for Muireann career-wise (trolls and the likes aside), as last month she celebrated one year as co-host of The Six O’Clock show with Martin King; ‘It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had in my entire life bar my mother!’ she laughs.

She’s also almost six months into fronting her own show on Today FM.  When Al Porter stepped down from his lunchtime slot in November last year in the wake of allegations of inappropriate behaviour, Muireann, who had been freelancing with Today FM for two years, stepped in to take the helm.

In January it was announced that she would be his permanent replacement.  By then Muireann, and the team, particularly producers Mark Lenihan and Pamela Blake, had weathered the storm and found their groove.

Speaking about the transition, she says, “You’re talking about two people – Lenny and Pam - working on that team and I’ve just come in and they don’t know what’s happening.  And it’s their livelihoods. Nobody is an island – it all has a knock on effect.

Today FM presenter Muireann O'Connell
Today FM presenter Muireann O'Connell

“I think when I came in it was much less about it me, it was about them and I just had to be like, ‘Everything’s okay’ because they were coming up to Christmas, so we just got on with it and put our heads down.

“We didn’t know what was happening, we didn’t know what was going to transpire.  I just thought there are two people who have been here a couple of years in this slot working their arses off – let’s just make sure I don’t let them down.”

Several months later it is clear she certainly has not let them down.  And she hopes to continue with the show for the foreseeable future.  Working on Today FM, she says, was always her ultimate aim as she worked her way from regional radio and SPIN South West through Phantom, and 98FM.

Muireann O'Connell seen leaving Today FM after it was announced she will host a brand new lunchtime show
Muireann O'Connell seen leaving Today FM after it was announced she will host a brand new lunchtime show

The station recently announced changes to the weekend schedule which saw Nadine O’Regan’s show, Songs in the Key of Life, cancelled after two years as well as The Sunday Business Show.  Such is the nature of the business, but Muireann feels for anyone who has been made redundant.

“I’ve been made redundant before in radio where I was moved from one show to another show and then they decided to get rid of it,” she recalls. 

“I had only been there a very short time and I thought everything was going great. I didn’t know what to do with myself.  I was like, ‘Right, okay, so what do I do now?  My life is over’.  It kind of steeled me a little bit.”

She adds, “To anyone going through that, it’s one of the worst things I’ve ever gone through.  I’m well aware that it could all be taken away in a second. 

“I’ve been doing this a very long time and you work hard but you never know.  Everything is fickle.  I just know I’m enjoying it at the moment and hopefully will for a long time, without looking too far into the future.”

Muireann O'Connell's Today FM show airs 12 noon to 2pm on weekdays and The Six O'Clock show airs weekdays on Tv3.

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