Monday 18 December 2017

Life lessons with broadcaster Aine Lawlor

Top broadcaster: Aine Lawlor. Photo: Frank McGrath
Top broadcaster: Aine Lawlor. Photo: Frank McGrath

Hailing from Coolock in Dublin, Aine Lawlor (50) is one of Ireland's most experienced broadcasters.

She anchored Morning Ireland, the top-rated radio show in the country, for 16 years, before signing off in 2011 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her mum passed away from the disease at just 47. After being treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, Aine returned to work a year later and went on to make a two-part documentary, Facing Cancer, about her experience.

Lawlor is known for her sharp political criticism, and was president of the Students' Union during her time at Trinity College Dublin. She now presents RTÉ Radio One's News at One and current affairs programme The Week in Politics on television. She is married to radio producer Ian Wilson, and they have four children: David (26), twins Megan and Jack (21), and Ella (14).

"We are a close family. I'm the eldest of four, and because my mum died young and my dad has been very unwell for the past 13 years, we always had to go on cooperating as a family and work together. It's actually really nice then to see your own kids growing up together.

I adored and still adore my mother. It's nearly 30 years since she died. I wish she'd known my children, I wish she'd been at my wedding, but because of cancer, her life ended far too soon.

For a girl from Coolock, college was such a different world. It was a place where so many opportunities opened up for me, in all kinds of ways - including the students' union, including the man I ended up marrying, including so many friends and experiences that shape you for an awful long time. It was a special place.

I became a journalist by accident. It was the mid-1980s and everyone was emigrating, but I'd fallen in love and my mother was sick, so I didn't want to leave. The only place there was work going was RTÉ. I came out here as a continuity announcer, and ended up as a journalist in the newsroom.

I'd love to go back to college at some point in the future. I'd love to do something like history or history of art, and to get my proper horticultural qualifications. There are loads of things I look forward to studying as an older person when I have time.

People ask, what's my favourite interview? It's the one I'm about to do next. The lovely thing about this job is you can't rest on your laurels, you're starting over with every new thing.

The biggest challenge in this job is always to remember to be fair. You have to make sure that you're not just thinking inside the box. I try to be fair, I try to do my homework, and if I do it wrong, I try to put it right.

I love Twitter. I think it's really useful. But I think social media is very hard on kids, with 24/7 Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and all that.

I've done yoga for a long time. I like things like that for switching off. One of the things I love about gardening is when you have a day off, you can spend the whole day bending and lifting and sowing and watering, and at the end of the day, you pack everything up, and you realise you haven't thought of anything else. It's great for your head.

We grow all our own vegetables, and a lot of fruit. We have an allotment, and I've a small front garden that I cram as many flowers as I can into. I plant literally hundreds of tulips, in all different colours, and I've worked out my colour scheme for this year. I really enjoy all that kind of stuff.

It sounds boastful to say it, but I love cooking, and I am a good cook. The more I learn about food, the more I realise it's actually about having really, really good ingredients and then faffing about with them as little as possible. I think we don't appreciate enough the quality of the food we're able to produce in Ireland.

I don't have any spare time. I like to go to the theatre, I love classical music, I like to walk, but the problem for me is getting the time to do those things. I love shows like Judge Judy and Real Housewives - if I'm ever sick and off work, I love them to bits.

Cancer was one of the bad things that happened in my life, but you can't let any one bad thing define your life. Equally I'm a mum and I'm a journalist. It's actually the good things that matter more.

Three years later, my feelings about it have changed. Now really I don't think about it an awful lot. I'm in a different place. On the other hand, if I had a scan tomorrow or if I had an extra pain, I'd probably worry about it all night long.

I'm very lucky at the moment. I'm well, I can walk around and be a well person and worry about things that only well people can afford to worry about.

I try to remember how quickly it can all disappear. And how important it is to appreciate the ordinary things in life. Sometimes, when I'm coming into work, I just try and remember that it's a beautiful day and I'm lucky to have the day.

I don't look back. It's the past, and I try to deal with today. Instead of concentrating on misfortune, I try to focus on good things. You're lucky to have what you have, just focus on that.

Irish people are great for getting into stuff. I think we're blessed. We are good at celebration, and it's important to celebrate in Ireland as well as give out and criticise - the things I do 9am to 5pm all the week long!"

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