Sunday 15 December 2019

Take it as red ...Blathnaid's back

They say it was the very dry and warm autumn that gave us such an explosion of rich colour in the foliage.

The Titian-haired Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh - certainly a textbook 'autumn' in make-up palette parlance - has had her own dry spell in the last few years. Aside from her recurring bit on the Republic Of Telly we haven't seen too much of her. But now, in her favourite time of the year, she's back with a bang, presenting RTE's new Sunday series The Moment Of Truth - one-on-one interviews with people who have had life-changing experiences.

"It's a cathartic experience for many people to be able to tell their story," she says. "They're sharing a huge and sometimes painful part of their lives. People like Sunny Jacobs (who was wrongly convicted of the murder of two Florida cops) just seemed devoid of self-pity. It was really a humbling experience."

A conversation, the great Lynn Barber once pointed out, is a two-way street and getting people to open up in an interview may come naturally to Blathnaid, since she is so open herself. Whether it's the grief she suffered after her father died, issues in her marriage, the trials of motherhood or career frustrations, she is disarmingly frank. She'll pull back the skin on her face to show you where she'd have work done if she were brave enough, she'll show you where she had her "fawning" threaded. She all but lets me have a look in her purse.

There's a holy medal in there, I'm told, which seems about right - I'm imagining it sitting in there alongside some costly face cream. Blathnaid, you see, is a perfect blend of the old and the new Irelands. She's a career woman who wants her husband to wear the pants at home. She tries to mind her head but she's really lost her patience with mindfulness. She's an old-school Gaeilgeoir - raised in the Rath Cairn Gaeltacht of Co. Meath - whose gay friends tell her when she's gone wrong fashion-wise. But perhaps her most famous synthesis of the modern and maidens-at-crossroads came in her famous admission that she even has sex in Irish.

If there is any crossroads it's probably in her career. After last year's wonderful turn in the Irish-language comedy, An Crisis Eile, she'd love to do more acting but feels burdened by the renown that comes with being "Blathnaid from the telly." She may have a much-coveted staff job in RTE but she tells me that, like a freelancer, "I don't know where my next gig is coming from."

Like her fellow redhead Kathy Griffin, you get the feeling that for Blathnaid her mother is very much part of the act. I interviewed them together about 10 years ago. After Blathnaid's father died six years ago she says her relationship with her mother temporarily deteriorated, however: "There was something in me that was very angry and she bore the brunt. There was a lot of crying and then silence on the phone, but, you know, it kind of cleared the air a bit."

Her relationship with her father also had an effect on her marriage to Ciaran, a music producer: "Even after I got married I called (my parents' house) home. I didn't connect with Ciaran as the man in my life, because my dad was the man in my life. Then I realised you have to let (Ciaran) be the man in my life - he has to tick the husband and father role boxes."

It might sound strange to hear a mother-of-four with such a successful broadcasting career say that "a lot of life feels like a dress rehearsal" or "I thought I'd be richer by now" but it's this restlessness that seems to spur her on to each new project. One hopes she finds a suitable vehicle for her talent because however honest her interview subjects are, Blathnaid always spits the truth.

Donal Lynch

The Moment Of Truth is on tonight at 10.40pm on RTE1

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