Saturday 21 July 2018

'I think people need to step away from Twitter and maybe just prioritise life ' - Lucy Kennedy on backlash over Katie Hopkins episode of Living with Lucy

Presenter says critics' energy would be better expended volunteering for Childline

Katie Hopkins and Lucy Kennedy. PIC: Lucy Kennedy Twitter
Katie Hopkins and Lucy Kennedy. PIC: Lucy Kennedy Twitter
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

When TV3 presenter Lucy Kennedy tweeted an photo of herself sitting side by side with Katie Hopkins it sparked backlash on the social media platform.

The pic was taken as Lucy shacked up with the controversial figure at her home in London to film an episode for the new series of Living with Lucy.

Lucy says she tweeted the photo as 'editorial market research', to show Katie exactly what people think of her in Ireland.

However, she was amazed by how many people 'jumped on the bandwagon' and criticised her (Lucy) before seeing the show, which ultimately aired last week.

"It was quite an interesting exercise, just to see perceptions," she says.  "I could not respond to the tweets and some were quite negative and quite nasty and I read every one of them.  I really did. 

"The first few stung a little but as awful as it sounds you become immune to it.  As the tweets were coming through I was getting tougher and tougher and tougher.  Amazingly the reactive tweets didn’t really resonate with me, people going, ‘Oh, I’m not going to watch this.  I never liked you anyway’, they didn’t really have any effect on me. 

Katie Hopkins, Lucy Kennedy on Living with Lucy, TV3
Katie Hopkins, Lucy Kennedy on Living with Lucy, TV3

"It was the ones that said ‘we’re very disappointed in you’ – those ones got to me.  What people didn’t realise and what they realise now [after seeing the show] is that I feel the exact same way as they did.  I did it to see what she’s like to live with, not because I agree with her.

"It was never going to be a love in.  I’m just shining a light on a dark corner and showing people what she’s like to live with. 

"I think people just put certain characters in the media on this platform and make them into something that they're not, something that should be feared.  While there are many things I fear, and I do have my fears, people are not one of them.  I just don’t fear people and, if anything, I think thank God people like me have the balls to go and get a torch a shine a light in those dark corners."

She adds, "At the end of the day as well, which people do forget, it’s just a television programme."

As the backlash was gaining momentum online, Lucy was preparing to launch the Cheerios Childline Breakfast 2017.

"I think people need to step away from Twitter and maybe just prioritise life," she says.

Lucy Kennedy with Michael Healy Rae on Living with Lucy
Lucy Kennedy with Michael Healy Rae on Living with Lucy

"When people were giving out about me living with Katie Hopkins I was preparing to launch Cheerios Childline for the ISPCC and I couldn’t help but think, as I was frantically running around trying to get organised for the launch, that if they have that much time on their hands I really wish they’d put it to better use and volunteer. 

"The fact there are 460,000 calls from our children in Ireland to Childline makes me think a few more volunteers would help.  If anything the whole Katie Hopkins experience just gave me perspective on what actually matters."

Viewers should "strap in", she says, because there are more controversial figures to come.  Actress Daniella Westbrook will feature in another episode and she was, she says, "difficult" while the final episode of the 10 this series will feature another very controversial but as yet unidentified figure.

Lucy admits she has plenty of stories about her subjects from behind the scenes when the cameras are turned off but she's "too professional to talk about them".  Often material that has been filmed has to be cut, too, because it is sensitive legally.

"At times I would be irritated by people saying, ‘You never asked her about this or that’ when actually I did.  I asked her everything but not everything can be used," reveals Lucy.

Thankfully, she has a much easier time in the next episode of the show on Tuesday night when she lives with Kerry politician and flat cap fan Michael Healy Rae.

It's fair to say they got on like a house on fire.

"I love him.  I loved him.  I loved every second in his company," she gushes.  "He was a pleasure to live with, such a laugh, so easy, so warm.  I’m mad about him.   It was a laugh a minute.  I had the craic.  He’s a really, really good guy."

Michael tells her about his two near death experiences at the hand (hooves?) of a cow and a chicken curry.  It's hilarious.  But there are some serious moments, including when he tells her about his regrets over being so work-focused when his children were young.

"It was so honest and just raw and it just goes to show you the life of a politician… when you get into politics you give up your life.  You really do," says Lucy.

"It’s interesting though that [his son] Jackie is following in his footsteps.  He’s really taken Jackie under his wing and he respects Jackie and they have a really nice father son relationship, like he had with his own dad, Jackie senior."

She adds, "My God, that man picks up his phone after midnight.  His job is his life.  He really cares about everybody and I saw a really nice, genuine man. 

"You see this crazy guy from Kerry with the caps and he’s not.  There’s so much more to him than that.  He’s a husband, he’s a friend, he’s a politician, but he’s a brilliant guy.  I loved his company and it just makes the whole experience so nice when you genuinely enjoy being with the person.  I felt a bit sad when I had to leave!"

Whether she's living with someone she likes or not, Lucy says she's immensely proud of the programme, which started out life on RTE as Livin' with Lucy and then moved to TV3.

"I’m really so proud of it as a format, so proud it has stood the test of time, and so loved by people, so much so that TV3 are planning up to six series.  It’s my fourth baby," she admits.

She's also gearing up to host Ireland's Got Talent, which starts it's auditioning tour of Ireland next month.  Recently she decided not to return to her presenting gig on the Six O'Clock Show after her maternity leave for her third baby.

"I couldn’t have done the Six O’Clock Show and Ireland’s Got Talent so I had to make a decision and I chose Ireland’s Got Talent and Living with Lucy," she says.

"Also, the fact they moved the show to 6 o’clock, it’s very hard with my smallies and the school run.  I like to be there at the school gates to collect them and hear the first bit of news after school. 

"With Living with Lucy I am missing for a couple of days but it’s different to every day.  I think I have a good work/family balance.  It’s taken a few years to figure out but career wise I’ve never been happier than I am now.  It’s a nice thing to be able to say!"

Living with Lucy  with Michael Healy Rae airs Tuesday night on TV3 at 10pm.

Taking place from October 16 to 22, ISPCC Childline are calling on the nation to host a Cheerios Childline Breakfast to raise funds for Ireland's only 24-hour listening service for children. Register today at ­ or text RISE to 50300 to donate €4.

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