Tuesday 20 March 2018

Operation Transformation leader Eilish on booze row: 'I would do it all over again'

Eilish Kavanagh from Bunclody with Kathryn Thomas, presenter of Operation Transformation after she was criticised for drinking on a day out at the races.
Eilish Kavanagh from Bunclody with Kathryn Thomas, presenter of Operation Transformation after she was criticised for drinking on a day out at the races.
Dr Ciara Kelly
Operation Transformation participant Eilish Kavanagh
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Operation Transformation leader Eilish Kavanagh has revealed she has "cleared the air" with Dr Ciara Kelly, who lambasted her for drinking alcohol on a day at the races on last week's show.

However, speaking on the John Murray show on RTE Radio 1 today, Eilish (47) said she didn't think she was drinking and would "do it all over again".

"I had a great day.  I didn't make any money but I thoroughly enjoyed my day and I was asked during the week would I do it all over again and my answer was yes.  And I still would do it all over again."

Asked if she was taken aback by Dr Ciara's response to her drinking on the show, she said she realised it wasn't entirely about her.

"As the week went on I realised it wasn't me Ciara was getting at.  She was trying to get the word out about alcohol and binge drinking and everything," she said.

"At the time I did take it personally but I've moved on and I'm a big girl.  I just don't want this going on any more.  Move on, forget about it."

Eilish admits she drank five vodkas with water and said she doesn't "regard it as bing drinking".

"To be honest with you I didn't know what the was.  I looked it up on Google and I found out what I thought I was allowed for the week.  I thought I had a reasonable drink on the day but I've learnt a lot more since then."

WATCH: WATCH: Operation Transformation row after Dr Ciara Kelly accuses leader of 'being drunk on TV'

Dr Ciara said she felt sorry for Eilish, who she says she respects and who is working hard, but she had a particular role to fill on the show.

"I sometimes think people don't remember what my role is on the show.  I'm here about the health. I'm not about the personal training.  I'm here about the health of the leaders and I'm here in a health promotion capacity for those who view the show, the followers," she said.

"From my point of view I believe really strongly in the fact we have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol in this country, that we have a drink culutre, that it needs to be challenged.  It is not a harmless thing and I think we gloss over it talking about the craic.  We minimise it and we glamourise it.

"And I just felt on the day when I was there and I was conscious we were on the national broadcaster, a health promotion show, and we have somebody drinking on the show.  I felt it would have been irresponsible of me not to come down hard."

Dr Ciara said she has had a very "tough" week with abuse on social media, most of which is "unrepeatable".

"Realistically I've taken it in the neck but I'm a big girl and I sand over what I said."

However, she added that "it got too heated and I should have been more measured last week but I do feel passionately that Ireland is not dealing with our drink problem.  We're in collective denial of the fact we have an issue with alcohol."

She added "I saw it as my role to fall on my sword and go for it and say it as hard fact last week."

Asked if she would cut out alcohol completely from now on, Eilish said she would not.

READ: 'It is unacceptable behaviour in a setting that promotes being healthy' - Operation Transformation's Dr Ciara Kelly stands by her criticism of leader

"I love going out.  I'm a  very social person and I go out most weekends with my friends and it's fantastic to get all this information on the show but when I came on I wanted to fit it into my lifestyle," she said.

"I still want to go out on my one night at the weekend and have my few drinks and have my day out at the races.  It's not something I want to stop but at least I know now the proper amount I can have."

Operation Transformation broadcasts Wednesday and Thursday nights at 8.30pm on RTE One.  This week features leaders Eilish, Alan and Veronica on Wednesday and Mark and Louise on Thursday.

This Wednesday, for the first time, fans of the show will be able to quiz the experts Karl Henry, Dr. Eddie Murphy, Aoife Hearne and Dr. Ciara Kelly in a live Q&A session online, OT Live on RTÉ Player. OT Live will be live from 9pm.

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