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Imelda Byrne loving it on 'ICW Bootcamp'

SHE is 80 years of age and happily retired from her millinery business, yet ICA grande dame Imelda Byrne is clearly enjoying her time as a mentor on RTE's popular show ICA Bootcamp, which returns to our screens in a new series tomorrow night.

Just don't ask this original domestic goddess to become a moral guardian for the nation's young women. Instead, no-nonsense Imelda gives common-sense advice as opposed to chastising or reprimanding any young woman guilty of any profligate behaviour such as binge drinking or casual sex.

"I didn't watch Tallafornia, there are more interesting things on the television for a woman of my age, like Agatha Christie or Morse," Imelda says.

"I also love Country House Restoration because I restored country houses myself after I finished work as an Aer Lingus air hostess.

"I only know what I've read about Tallafornia and I think my reaction would be 'Why would any young woman do that to herself?'

"I can only comment on how we were brought up, which was to have self-control and to not lose ourselves in the heat of the moment," Imelda says of life as a young woman in the 1940s.

"We were reared to be in charge of ourselves, and to be able to go into any situation in the knowledge that we would leave it feeling proud of our behaviour," she says.

"I do think shame still exists. I believe certain behaviour is all bravado, and young women feel ashamed of themselves afterwards," she says.

While her role on ICA Bootcamp is to sternly tutor young modern women with attitude in old-fashioned and wholesome domesticity, Imelda clearly has great affection for her often lively student wannabes.

The new batch of recruits, which will feature in the series starting tomorrow night, include Rachel Wallace, a marketing graduate and model, and student Aisling Shevlin from Drogheda. Fellow recruit Sophia McAndrew is studying media in Ballyfermot College, while Jodie Wood is in her final year in UCD studying molecular biology.

Imelda says: "I very much like the way today's young women are so self-assured. It is the way they are so self-obsessed which I find surprising. I would never say I'm shocked by them. Shocked is such a prudish word, isn't it?

"I am taken aback by how orange they are. The young women who come here seem to spend an awful lot of time making themselves anything but their natural skin colouring, which I happen to think is fair and beautiful.

"They adore their shoes, and bring bags of them with them for a week's visit. They are mad into their Louboutins and I couldn't believe it when they told me the hundreds of euro these shoes cost," Imelda says.

So can we expect the new bunch of young women recruits to come out of the new series as potential model modern wives?

"Being a wife is not a career, it is about being in a relationship. I would very much like any young woman who comes here to go away with a newfound ability to look outside of herself, and to look at the world," says Imelda, herself a mum-of-three, including two daughters.

"I would like her to know the world doesn't begin and end with how her hair looks," she says.

While Imelda would never be so tactless as to call today's young women pampered princesses, she is all for getting young women to know the value of a euro -- and how to sew a button on rather than running out to buy a new top.

"When they think of dinner, they think of a lot of packed and processed foods. Well maybe now they are not in a position to go out and pay for readymade dinners."

ICA Bootcamp, tomorrow evening, RTE Two, 9.30pm