THE woman at the centre of the Late, Late Show chair controversy has spoken for the first time of the ``pain and hurt'' caused her and her family by the affair.
In her first interview in almost a year, Siubhan Maloney also accused Gay Byrne of ``bullying'' her at a time when she was most vulnerable and prohibited from commenting about the controversy for legal reasons.
She said Gay was aware the night she won the award for the best restoration effort of a phone call to the Late, Late office from a Dublin antiques dealer claiming it was he and not Siubhan who had restored the chair.
However, she said, Gay dismissed the call and personally came to her after the show to tell her to ignore such calls as they were often received from all kinds of people making claims of this sort.
``He said to me `Siubhan dear, don't worry about it ... there's always someone to ring in and say they did the work.' He said to go home and enjoy the prize and not to worry about it,'' the Donegal town mother of three told the Irish Independent.
Siubhan has spoken out on the first anniversary of the antiques item on the Late, Late Show in response to moves earlier this week by staff of the show to send a message to her on her local radio station.
She says she ``saw red'' when she heard Late, Late Show assistant Maura Connolly had been on North West Radio saying she had not been in touch with them. She dashed off a brief fax message to the radio station challenging Gay Byrne to either ``put up or shut up''.
Siubhan (41) again insisted she was responsible for restoring the Regency chair that scooped the prize of a specially designed set of Cavan Crystal valued £1,000. ``I did the work myself. Of course, I got help with the chair. We all did. But it was nothing beyond the bounds.''
She hotly disputes the claim of a Dublin antiques dealer that she collected the prizewinning chair from his shop on April 26 and paid him £200 for the work. She insists she was holidaying in Spain on April 26 last year.
By the time the controversy broke Siubhan was pregnant, the Dublin dealer had issued a High Court writ against her and her legal and medical advice was not to accept an invitation to reappear on the show. ``The one thing I would like to say about the Dublin dealer is I apologise for calling him a liar on the Pat Kenny programme. But I still say he is mistaken.''
She then told how when she came home from hospital with my little bundle of joy Patrick is now four months old I tuned into the Late, Late Toy Show in the belief it had to be safe now. But Dustin the Turkey presents Gay with a mini antique chair and makes another snide remark. He never stops.
``There are no words to describe the pain and hurt. It destroys you. Not just me, but it destroyed my parents. It hurt everybody, my children at school. The tabloid papers were at their school looking for me.''
Last night Siubhan responded to a Late, Late Show invitation to appear on the show to discuss the chair controversy by saying she was willing to meet Gay Byrne to discuss the affair but not on his show, suggesting Kenny Live instead.
``I'm very hurt. If Gay Byrne hadn't been involved in this story he'd be talking to me about all the hurt the media caused me. But because he's the one involved, he's the bully.''
``I'll meet Gay Byrne if he wants to discuss it, but only if he's not in the chair. I don't believe I would get fair treatment if he was chairing his own show.''
Gay Byrne said last night they wrote to Mrs Maloney saying in view of the controversey would she ``deem it appropriate to return the prize'' but heard nothing. They let matters rest. She was welcome to appear on the show to explain the whole thing.