Thursday 27 June 2019

Champagne Supernova...inside Barry Egan's star-studded Dublin Christmas Party

It is the annual 'Sunday Independent' Living Christmas Party - and it's not just any Christmas party but the party of the year. Unsurprisingly, everyone was there in the Presidential Suite of the InterContinental Hotel. Great food, great wine and chat to match. Your host with the most was, of course, Barry Egan. David Conachy and Steve Humphreys took the fab photos

The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
Victoria Mary Clarke and Camille O’Sullivan try to avoid the old chesnut about the Christmas cracker
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
Barry Egan and Neven Maguire
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge

ChristmaS, they say, waves a magic wand over the world, where everything is softer and more beautiful. And nowhere more so than the Presidential Suite of the InterContinental Hotel in bling Ballsbridge tonight.

The style is off the scale, courtesy of, among others, Celia Holman Lee, Deirdre O'Kane, Dr Ciara Kelly, Valerie Roe, Stefanie Preissner, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Theresa Lowe, Maria Walsh, the two Hollys - Carpenter and White - and Camille O'Sullivan. The latter Cork chanteuse extraordinaire is wearing an eye-popping blue jumpsuit that she made herself. The DIY ensemble divided opinion between her mother (Marie-Rose, a French artist from Bordeaux) and her movie star other half (Aidan Gillen.)

"I made it for my recent UK & Irish tour after being inspired by seeing the costumes worn by the character Freddie Mercury in the film Bohemian Rhapsody," explains Camille, equal parts Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Ophelia and Lady Macbeth, Garbo, Hattie Jacques and Patti Smith.

"I went into Hickey's and bought a simplicity pattern. The woman asked: 'Is it for Halloween?' I was like, 'Errr…!!!'

The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge

"Mum couldn't see it properly without her glasses, and was worried it would be too stagey but loved it when she saw pics! Aidan thought I looked like his favourite Quality Street sweet. Lots of people at the party want me to make one for them, so I'd be delighted to when I've time off next."

Deirdre O'Kane's fake tattoo on her Wolford tights beneath her glittery rigout-out was almost as discussion-starting. Seeing the tattoo and thinking it real, her son said to Deirdre as she left the house in Dun Laoghaire: "You've really messed up now! What's that gonna look like when you're old."

"I said, 'I am old'," laughs Deirdre O'Kane holding court at the soiree of the season bar none.

The mood, assisted by lashings of Champagne, was soon so festive among the guests that it seemed almost rude not to ask who (other than their partners) they would like to meet under the mistletoe.

The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge

2FM and TV superstar Eoghan McDermott and TV3 deity Mark Cagney concur: "There is no acceptable answer."

Ex-Rose of Tralee with big political ambitions, Maria Walsh: "Julia Roberts."

Kathleen Watkins - she needs no introduction: "It's two young guys, The Cellists. I see them at 6am on Sky Arts, they're magnificent young men, about 27/28. They play up a storm."

Author and creator of Can't Cope, Won't Cope, Stefanie Preissner: "Jurgen Klopp [Liverpool FC manager.]"

Victoria Mary Clarke and Camille O’Sullivan try to avoid the old chesnut about the Christmas cracker
Victoria Mary Clarke and Camille O’Sullivan try to avoid the old chesnut about the Christmas cracker

Broadcaster/barrister/communications expert Theresa Lowe, warming to the football-related theme evidently: "Actually I wouldn't have the slightest interest in anyone other than Frank, but if you bend my arm, I'd have to go for Klopp. I'm a massive Liverpool fan and I adore the huge affection he has for the players and fans; the hugs during and after the matches and the pure positivity that he radiates, I'm sure it's a major factor in Liverpool's recent success."

Illustrious comedian and actor Deirdre O'Kane: "Mark Ruffalo [American actor]."

Illustrious comedian and actor Pat Shortt: "The man from the National Lottery, who would tell me I won the Lotto."

Camille O'Sullivan: "Hmm, there is no one else I'd like to be under the tree with than him (Aidan), but maybe Santy! As a teenager it would have been Bowie... first crush and incredible man, dream on Camille she says to herself!"

Illustrious comedian and actor Katherine Lynch: "A young Jack Nicholson. I like to think we would practice our kiss for a while before going for it."

Illustrious broadcaster and Ireland's most famous wearer of a moustache, Marty Whelan: "Michelle Obama. After Maria, she could be my second First Lady."

Model and soon-to-be star of Dancing with the Stars on RTE, Holly Carpenter: "Tom Hardy will always be my number one crush. I'm a bit of a heightist and I usually only go for men over 6ft but Tom can stand on a box under the mistletoe."

The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge
The Sunday Independent Christmas Party at the Intercontinental Dublin in Ballsbridge

Newstalk and Sunday Independent luminary Dr Ciara Kelly: "Bradley Cooper. I literally fell in love with him in A Star Is Born."

Singer of some considerable note, Tommy Fleming: "Jennifer Aniston. No explanation needed I think."

Ageless racing car driver and author of inspirational feminist tract Driven, Rosemary Smith: "Michael Fassbender. He is gorgeous and mad about cars."

Author and broadcaster Victoria Mary Clarke: "Jimi Hendrix. He might be able to teach me the guitar."

Twink - like Kathleen, Twink needs no introduction: "Well, it's always Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen."

Why? "Why not! Brainy. Beautiful. Artistic. And a 21st Century Scarlet Pimpernel! But I'd like to be greedy this year, and add Bradley Walsh (The Chase). I adore him and David Walliams...," laughs a simply incorrigible Twink.

Is there any rumour about themselves in 2018 that they'd like to deny?

Kathleen: "I once heard that I was a divil for the drink! Which was so funny because nothing could be further from the truth!"

Illustrious artist Michael Mulcahy roars with laughter: "That I gave up the drink."

Eoghan: "That I turned 40!"

Camille: "Twice I was asked for my autograph - as Tracey Emin! Of course I signed 'Tracey Emin'! Hard when they say: "It's you, isn't it?"

Tommy: "That I mime at my concerts."

Maria: "That I was running for President."

Marty: "That I was writing a book about fishing. I don't even eat fish that much."

Were they naughty or nice in 2018? Kathleen, practically coquettishly: "Sometimes naughty!"

Ciara Kelly: "I think both should be practiced in moderation."

Katherine Lynch: "100pc naughty. Naughty at every chance." I am starting to see why they say the main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. Then Maria Walsh pipes up: "Of course, nice. I am a retired Rose of Tralee. I'm always nice!"

Twink: "I don't need Christmas, I am naughty and nice in balanced proportions all my life!"

Author Holly White: "Nice - always! Kindness costs nothing."

Holly Carpenter: "Naughty. I moved into a house in Stoneybatter with a friend and we spent the first half of the year going out a lot. I was just over excited about living so close to town with a pal but the novelty eventually wore off and we calmed down."

Such dazzling repartee reminded me, of course, of what Noel Coward was getting at when he mused, once upon a time, that "wit ought to be a glorious treat, like caviar. Never spread it like marmalade". Prepared by The InterContinental's executive chef Alberto Rossi and his team, the culinary treats included: canapes including soda bread, dill cream cheese and smoked salmon, Skeaghanore duck on brioche, mini prawn cocktails, beef sliders with Brie and cranberry sauce, to say nothing of Christmas dinner of roasted bronze turkey, roasted Ballymakenny Farm yukon and gold potatoes, with desserts that included mince pies, Christmas pudding, gingerbread panna cotta and pistachio Christmas trees.

In terms of the headiness of the night, the party is like Studio 54 in New York, the Copacabana in Rio, Annabel's in London or Regine's in Paris during their respective heydays courtesy of the star-power on display tonight in Dublin 4. I'll get to Gay Byrne, who arrives with Kathleen Watkins at 7pm and stays until 11.15pm, in a minute.

Whatever drugs Gay is on, I want some!

Neven Maguire popped in, with his new book, Home Economics for Life, to offer foodie ideas to Marty Whelan, as did that other culinary king Ross Lewis (who cooked for the Queen in Dublin in the summer of 2007: Barbra Streisand arrived into his restaurant Chapter One on Parnell Square at 1.30am in July, 2007; the booking was for midnight...) At the bar, in the massively stylish room, was the aforesaid Marty Whelan chatting to Camille O'Sullivan, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Stefanie Preissner and Twink. By the piano, Pat Shortt, our own Declan Lynch (author of the sublime Notes From a Lost Tribe: The Poor Ould Fellas and Tony 10: The astonishing story of the postman who gambled €10,000,000), Deirdre O'Kane, Maria Walsh, Valerie Roe, Tommy Fleming and Eoghan McDermott were deep in chat.

At the other end of the suite, Mr Pussy, Celia Holman Lee, Fair City actor George McMahon, Lisa Cannon, Louis Copeland, Jenny Buckley and Rosemary Smith were talking to two Hollys - White and Carpenter.

You looked on the couch and there were Gay Byrne and Kathleen Watkins holding court for four hours. People were literally queueing up to tell Uncle Gaybo how great they thought he was all their lives, or to listen to him up close and personal for 15 minutes or so, hopefully to get something approaching the meaning of life from the great man himself.

Sipping his Jameson - a glass that was replenished a few times throughout the night - Gay gave generously of his time. As did his other half Kathleen Watkins.

When charity queen Debbie Deegan, who helps the children of Russia, told Kathleen that she had a great idea for a children's book, Kathleen, beaming more than ever with the massive success of her second children's book, Happy Christmas, Pigin!, told her: "I will help you but for God's sake, keep the idea to yourself." Would I be letting Debbie's cat out of the bag by suggesting - Happy Christmas, Putin! or Putin of Vladivostok? But back to the party. And not the Communist Party. It was a party that could only have happened when it did and where it did: the Presidential Suite of the InterContinental just before Christmas, overseen by the incomparable Nicky Logue, general manager of the five-star hot spot and purveyor of a Burberry jacket that Gay Byrne described as unfathomably colourful.

An Taoiseach came last year but cried off this party, promising instead to have dinner with me on the following night (you can read the interview in next Sunday Independent's Living.) Another absentee who starred last year like Leo was a four-legged fella by the name of Ted. Twink said she got sad eyes from Ted who was sitting on the bottom of the stairs as she was leaving the house to go to the party, but she simply didn't have time to get him ready to go with her, having rushed back from a day's filming to get ready for the party herself.

There were enough A-listers in the room to make up for Ted (whatever about Leo) not being there, however. Indeed, for five hours, the Presidential Suite of the InterContinental was the giddy epicentre of the universe, where the Champagne never stopped flowing or the sumptuous food never stopped arriving on plates. It was a sybaritic paradise of beautiful people letting their hair down. If Heineken made parties in Presidential Suites then this would be it. All was missing was Michael D to arrive at the door and burst into a rendition - accompanied by Twink and Tommy Fleming and Pat Shortt on saxophone - of It Was A Very Good Year, before Mr Pussy sang him out with Happy Birthday Mr President. Apropos of which...

Were the guests happy to see Michael D returned to Aras an Uachtarain again for another term as President or did they think Peter Casey should have been given a go?

Stefanie: "Is that a trick question?"

Eoghan: "I assume this is a troll question. Michael D is a public servant and orator; Peter Casey gave out about Travellers."

Victoria: "For f**k's sake, of course! Michael D should be president for life."

Kathleen: "I wrote him a note way before the election telling him I hope he'd return."

Camille: "I did a wee jig of happiness, I love Michael D. I did a few performances at events he and his lovely wife were at, they're both just great. Always jumping off stage to give them a hug."

Holly Carpenter: "I love Miggeldy."

Twink: "Michael D all the way, Super President, Poor Peter fairly blew it on the Late Late I'm afraid!"

Pat Shortt: "I was absolutely thrilled to see Michael D returned. In my opinion, he was the only obvious choice and he is such a statesman. The perfect president. The two ladies before him were amazing, Mary McAleese and Mary Robinson, and continue to make us proud in what they do today. Peter Casey is not what I consider a choice of president for me, but it is important to listen to everyone but I would not agree with his approach."

It is a freezing night in Ballsbridge, but, mercifully, too cold to snow. What are their memories of the Beast from the East?

Victoria: "I was in Budapest where they know how to do snow."

Camille: "Looking at icicles inside my bedroom window... and saucepans of hot water for the car."

Kathleen: "We battened down the hatches. It was great to be prepared and have the warnings."

Marty: "I can't abide a polar vortex. Two ruined pairs of shoes."

Eoghan: "Sliding backwards down a hill in my car and being saved by wonderful strangers."

Katherine: "It was completely fine for me because I live in Temple Bar and I just popped out for food, all the while admiring other people's snowmen, before returning to my very cosy home."

Stefanie: "Getting stuck in the snow in my car and a man coming to help, but giving out to me for 30 minutes before he did."

Pat Shortt: "I was stuck in Cork for three days and ended up the only guest on Daithi and Maura's show because all their other guests couldn't make it with the road conditions. It was a blast."

Twink: "It was bliss. I had been commissioned to do a huge cake for a wonderful woman going through chemo for breast cancer. I had all my supplies in. Besides, my local supermarket is across the road... no driving needed. Both my girls were in the USA," she says, referring to Chloe and Naomi; the latter is with her famous mammy tonight at the party of 2018. "So I worked whatever hours I wanted day and night... and only went out in the snow to play with my mutts. I loved it."

Holly Carpenter: "I sat in my car for almost three hours parked in a Tesco car park eating the contents of my food shop, too afraid to drive through the storm, because I had forgotten my glasses and it was wild."

And their best moments of the summer heatwave?

Maria: "Having a constant tan."

Marty: "Contemplating wearing my mankini and not wearing it, much to my family's relief."

Victoria: "Definitely knowing I could swim in the sea every day if I wanted to."

Kathleen: "I'm not a sunbather. I read in the shade."

Stefanie: "Freezing a fruit salad and making my own ice cream."

Holly Carpenter: "Having sunshine at music festivals like Longitude and Electric Picnic was incredible. Festivals are 10 times better when you're not wearing a poncho dragging your feet through the mud."

Mary M O'Connor: "I just loved spending time in my back garden. A little sun trap and most summers it goes under-utilized, however this summer it came into its own!"

Eoghan: "Resisting the urge to go topless in St Stephen's Green."

Twink: "Planting up my little private courtyard pots with lovely flowers... and plants ... and painting and wearing a straw hat and wellies only; and still sweltering!"

Did you get the hose out?

"I have three watering cans!" laughs Twink enjoying her non-alcoholic Erdinger beer.

Pat Shortt: "Did I get the hose out? A garda wouldn't ask me that!" laughs Pat enjoying his glass of Champagne.

Marty Whelan enjoying his Champagne and his Butlers chocolates: "Did I get the hose out? A garda would ask me that!"

The tattooed lady Deirdre O'Kane laughs enjoying her Champagne: "No I didn't, and I'll tell you why I didn't. I don't have a garden."

Kathleen smiles, sipping on Champagne: "I've two water butts on the balcony as we were warned about the drought. So I could keep everything alive." Elsewhere in the grand dining room, Camille O'Sullivan (looking like Mr Gillen's fav Quality Street sweet come to a very vivid life in a blue jumpsuit) was tucking into the golden turkey and sprouts while washing it down with Champagne; her new friends Lisa Cannon and Maria Walsh and Stefanie Preissner and Debbie Deegan and Valerie Roe and Celia Holman Lee were helping her polish off the Champers (and the turkey too.) It was like they'd known each other all their lives.

It is not long until Christmas Day but this is no silent night. There is too much opinion-throwing stars in the suite for there to be anything approaching a silent or dull moment.

What did they feel was the biggest TV turkey of the year?

"I can't bear I'm a Celebrity," reveals Kathleen Watkins.

"Rebellion," interjects Eoghan McDermott, "an excellent cast and production values let down by bad storyline choices".

Marty: "A Wrinkle In Time. Even a stellar cast couldn't save this. More wrinkles all round."

Hero of 2018?

Ireland Am legend - and a reason to get up in the morning - Mark Cagney: "Vicky Phelan."

Fellow telly ledge Marty concurs: "Vicky Phelan having helped expose the cervical cancer controversy."

Eoghan: "My sister Roe. Battling online vitriol to better the social space for women."

Deirdre: "My husband Stephen (Noble director Stephen Bradley) who kept the show on the road when I was on Dancing With The Stars. We were having work done on the house, and I should have been there, as part of the team. But I wasn't and he got on with it and let me do my thing."

Holly Carpenter: "My therapist."

Maria Walsh: "The Irish women's hockey team."

Stefanie: "Thai cave rescuers."

Twink: "Belinda Morgan of the Hairy House Project. She is a tireless worker for animal welfare, and has saved and re-homed countless animals this year and every year... and has done online auctions to pay veterinary fees for those who can't ...amazing woman!"

Camille: "Father Tony Coote. A gentleman I sang for his charity event Walkwhileyoucan supporting Motor Neurone Disease which he discovered he had in March this year - just an extraordinary man with a great sense of humour and humility, I felt changed after meeting him."

Tommy: "David Attenborough. He has been my hero for many years, but more so now on his passion and influence to stop the damage that's been inflicted on the planet to stall climate change. His knowledge on the natural world is astounding."

Mary M O'Connor: "I had two heroes in 2018, Emma Mhic Mhathuna and Emma Hannigan. Brave, inspirational women who bore their illnesses with such courage, dignity and strength. I wish all their families and friends the very best this Christmas - their Christmases will be lonely ones without these amazing women."

Pat Shortt: "My son Lughaidh for travelling to Pamplona to do the Bull run with me."

Villain of 2018?

Mark Cagney rising to the occasion (well - he has been rising at dawn for nearly two decades to front Ireland Am on Virgin Media): "Vladimir Putin."

Pat Shortt: "My son Lughaidh for backing out of the bull run and not letting me run."

Marty: "Donald Trump - particularly the separation policy of children from their parents at immigration centres."

Holly Carpenter: "Donald Trump .

Stefanie: "Maroon 5 for that World Cup ad."

Deirdre: "Direct provision. I'm very against direct provision and I want it to end."

Their highlight of the year?

Deirdre O'Kane: "Dancing With The Stars. The fact that I turned 50 and was a finalist on the show, come on! It was a great feeling. Which brings me to my low point of the year, which was my Dad, John O'Kane, dying in August. The reason I mention it is because he was so proud of me on Dancing With The Stars, and I loved the fact he loved the show and was so proud of me."

Victoria Mary Clarke: "Getting married, because it was so beautiful and there was so much love from everyone, not just Shane, and because I loved my Bella Freud dress and Johnny Depp was the wedding singer!"

Camille O'Sullivan has her own highlight that Victoria will appreciate: "Singing at Shane MacGowan's 60th at NCH alongside guests Nick Cave, Bobby Gillespie, Cerys Matthews, Bono, Sinead O'Connor, Damien Dempsey, Glen Hansard, Johnny Depp. It was really emotional and the audience was incredible and wild, Shane was great. And also seeing dear Gaybo and his lovely wife this evening!"

Eoghan McDermott: "Getting Saoirse Ronan to Macklemore to record a spoken word piece as Gaeilge that I wrote for an album of songs distributed to every secondary school in Ireland."

Holly Carpenter: "Being asked to do Dancing With The Stars. I'm a big fan of the show and I love trying anything that gets me out of my comfort zone."

Holly White: "Publishing my first cook book, Veganish."

Maria Walsh: "Passing out as a two-step trooper in the reserve defence forces."

Pat Shortt, enjoying a Butlers Chocolate (Butlers Chocolate very kindly provided a box for everyone at the party): "The relief of the first night of my new show HEY! Getting out in front of an audience for the first time is the scariest and was a huge relief that it worked really well."

Tommy Fleming: "I recorded my fifth TV special in Galway Cathedral in September and released the CD and DVD in October which is still Top 10, so that's pretty special for me."

Kathleen: "Seeing two fabulous shows in London, Kinky Boots and Company. I marvel at the geniuses that work in theatre."

Twink: "Filming my first solo TV show for RTE 1 after so many years ...and with the A list of film production companies/crews. And it's looking smashing so far. We're editing soon!"

Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor: "I launched the Gender Action Plan for Higher Education Institutions, aimed at dealing with the serious imbalance of women in senior posts in our colleges and universities. Progress on improving gender balance in our higher level institutions has been too slow - and it would remain too slow unless we took action. I created 45 gender-specific posts over a three-year period (2019-2022) where there is clear evidence of significant female gender under-representation."

Jenny Buckley: "Presenting an American travel and cookery show for CBS. The viewing figures are around 25 million in the US, so it was nerve-racking yet incredibly exciting to think of such a large audience to re-launch my career. The feedback has been really positive and there's now talk of some further related projects in the new year."

Their low point of the year?

Maria Walsh: "Dublin winning the Sam Maguire."

Eoghan: "Reading an account of my sister's sexual assault in a confessional piece for Image magazine. She is the bravest person I know."

Kathleen: "I was in the emergency department but I recovered well."

Stefanie: "The Lidl looters who ruined our snow day."

Camille: "The day after that gig [Shane's 60th at NCH], after being musically high as a kite, felt low when it was over!… Feb blues hit, a wee loss of confidence, not being fit enough, growing older etc and a dear person passed away, knocked for six… port and smiling helps to get you over the hump!"

Twink: "The death of three of my lifelong best girlfriends... and several dear entertainment colleagues."

Holly Carpenter: "I had a rough few months at the beginning of the year. Like a lot of people I find January a bit tough and I was depressed and anxious up until spring."

Ciara: "I ended up in hospital in April which was bit of a land! I am never sick... all grand in the end but it makes you think about how life is short!"

Victoria: "When John Reynolds died. He was a visionary and a beautiful soul and he will be missed."

Pat Shortt: "I didn't really have one because I'm an optimist and always think that things can only get better."

Mary: "My biggest disappointment was Galway losing the All-Ireland Hurling final, I was also a bit disappointed that our positive action initiative to rebalance the imbalance in our institutions of learning got a negative response from some quarters. I expected some backlash, however I am simply responding to the serious challenges faced by our higher education institutions on the gender equality front. What we are doing is an entirely different approach, innovative and will help shine a light on our brilliant female academics."

Tommy: "We visited Rwanda earlier in the summer on a special envoy with the brilliant charity Bothar, to say it was a low point is probably too strong, however when I listened to the stories of the horror that was inflicted during the genocide of 1994, I don't think I can ever comprehend the levels of barbarity humans can reach."

What gift would they most like to receive at Christmas?

Eoghan: "A haircut voucher. I'm terrified of losing my hair. So I compensate by keeping it as feral as possible."

Katherine: "A Porsche. For obvious reasons."

Marty, warming to the theme: "I'm still available for a new Mercedes."

`Twink: "A magic wand - to give me a breather! - from the hard work I do to save my beloved home from going under the hammer!"

Holly Carpenter: "A year's membership in a yoga studio. Since I've started dance rehearsals I've realised how incredible it feels to stretch your body."

Favourite book of the year?

Declan Lynch: "Milkman by Anna Burns is a masterpiece. I can't believe it won the Booker Prize, because they're always getting things wrong. I can't speak highly enough of it, and, with its descriptions of creepy paramilitaries, it almost certainly annoys the hell out of the Provos too, which is a bonus point few other great books have.

Katherine Lynch: "Milkman. I got lost in the stream of consciousness in the best way. I gave it to my great friend Brian Kennedy, who like Anna, is from Belfast."

Pat Shortt: "An Unsung Hero: Tom Crean. He was an amazing man. Great story."

Victoria: "Lilly Allen's book, My Thoughts Exactly. Riveting!"

Mark: "The Death Of Truth by Michiko Kakutani."

Kathleen: "Robert Ballagh's memoir and Carol Anne Duffy's poems; she's a wonderful writer."

Mary Mitchell O'Connor: "I loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by debut writer Gail Honeyman. I found the heroine, Eleanor, totally engaging and thought-provoking and it had a perfect mix of sadness and warmth - I couldn't put it down. I read recently that the film rights were optioned by Reese Witherspoon's production company.

Deirdre: "Normal People by Sally Rooney. Did you read her first one, Conversations with Friends? I love her writing and the fact her characters appear so real. And even though the characters were college students, and I was thinking I was beyond that, I was still really keen to find out what happened."

Marty: "Declan Lynch's Notes from a Lost Tribe: The Poor Ould Fellas. Hilarious and clever."

Twink: "Although I don't ever read fictional books ...I have to say Graham Norton's new book, A Keeper. Because there's such a Cute little Maxi Dick and Twink story in it that I know and love... and also... he's a good Irish Seanchai...he writes a lovely story."

Theresa Lowe: "Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules For Life."

Holly White: "Liz Nugent's Skin Deep."

Camille O'Sullivan could never be accused of being skin deep. She feels life deeply. Asked what she will not be sad to see the back of in 2019, her reply was a revelation of self-analysis that would have given Freud - or Camille's parents - a field day: "Being a bit lost sometimes, bad decision making, worrying over work and the small stuff," she said, adding, that "last year was mad, the amount of touring and different shows, so I'm looking forward to working out a plan to take proper breaks to have a wee holiday and not live out of a suitcase from venue to venue."

What were the other guests glad to see the back of?

Stefanie: "The word Brexit."

Twink concurs: "Bloody Brexit. Stay in or get out... just let's end the tedious speculation!"

Katherine: "Theresa May dancing and the whole Brexit debacle."

Maria: "Donald Trump."

Holly Carpenter: "The leopard print trend. I still love wearing the print but I'm getting bored of seeing it in every shop window and glossy mag."

What is their greatest wish for 2019?

Pat: "To go back and do the bull run."

Deirdre: "That we finally get around to taking our full quota of refugees."

Mary: "To get to spend more time with my little granddaughter Esme."

Tommy: "A ban or end to puppy farming. The level of cruelty inflicted on defenceless dogs for profit is truly sickening. Someone in Government needs to grow a pair and tackle this issue head on."

Twink: "To see the back of homelessness... and sick people lying on hospital trolleys!"

Kathleen: "That Gay would have a better year health-wise. We will get some test results before Christmas, and, if they went well, that would be a great gift." There was a lot of love in the big room in the InterContinental tonight directed at Kathleen's husband. "It's been extremely nostalgic seeing Gay Byrne here this evening. My grandfather, Jimmy Banks, was the first pianist on The Late Late Show and he always spoke so fondly of Gay," said TV presenter Jenny Buckley.

The boss of the InterContinental spoke fondly of Uncle Gaybo too. "I remember Gay from a really young age of about 10 on a Saturday night on the telly," Nicky Logue told me. "It is great to still see him now and the lovely Kathleen in the hotel here on a weekly basis. He is exactly today as I remember him back then with his distinctive voice and charm."

Tommy Fleming told Gay Byrne he would have been nothing without him, as Gay had interviewed him at the beginning of his career. Gay graciously said he would have been nothing without The Late Late Show….

What did they ask Santa for this Christmas?

Stefanie: "A TV." Maria: "Time with family."

Camille: "A surprise from the heart…or that white four-poster bed from White Company, I haven't asked for it, but now you got me thinking, must write to him."

Pat Shortt, who is never, it transpires, short of wit: "A bale of briquettes for the fire so I can relax in front of the fire. Oh and a nice Single Malt Irish Whiskey."

Victoria: "The gift of absolute non judgment, and also being able to play the guitar"

Twink: "My two beloved daughters to be back home in Ireland for Christmas."

Do you miss Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill?

Pat Shortt: "Well, no, they were great but a new shake-up is always exciting."

Marty: "Two good lads but let's see the players play. Optimism reigns."

Kathleen: "Not a bit! I'm hooked on sport though! I remember Cian teaching me the Haka when he was four."

Camille doing the accent: "Not sure… I'm a Cork girl so Roy Keane like!"

Louis Copeland: "I'm looking forward to McCarthy's team."

What was their big news in 2018?

Eoghan: "I guess that I landed the narrator role on Love Island Australia. A mad adventure."

Marty: "Winning Streak is still a national winner against fierce competition."

Pat Shortt: "The opening of my new show HEY!"

What do you hope to achieve in 2019?

Maria, intriguingly: "A political role in this country."

Twink: "That the nation will really enjoy my new TV show and that it will open up a treasure trove of memories for the viewers who have been SO loyal to me for SO long and remind them of the top quality TV we made... when we had money," the national treasure that is Twink shakes with laughter.

Pat Shortt: "Finish fitting out my van to tour Europe in."

Camille: "Record and write music, see great shows, help people more who are in need, create a studio for painting, do ballet, learn some circus skills, create a massive cardboard circus world for Tiny O'Sullivan, happiest crafting! And make more jumpsuits like the one I made."

Holly Carpenter: "I would love to be the first female winner on Dancing With The Stars. My main goal is just to give it my all and have no regrets. I would like to keep up the dancing lessons, too, as a new hobby."

Were they glued to Love Island?

Eoghan: "Literally. It paid my bills."

Holly Carpenter: "Absolutely! One of the casting agents got in touch with me about auditioning for the show, but I politely declined. I don't think I would fancy any of the guys they put in the villa."

Marty: "Sorry, Eoghan. Not my thing."

Maria: "I didn't watch it at all."

Pat Shortt: "I don't watch porn."

Katherine: "Don't get me started on Love Island. I can feel a feminist rant coming on. Terrible show."

Camille: "Never watched it, not sure what it is. The name scared me alone."

Declan: "The conversation that the girls on Love Island had about Brexit was widely mocked, yet they were talking at least as much sense about it as any member of the Tory Party - or indeed the media. My original prediction that there will be no Brexit, or the No Brexit Brexit, still stands."

What was the biggest lie they told in 2018?

Kathleen: "I don't tell lies but if I was saving someone pain I'd tell a little white lie."

Holly Carpenter: "Any time someone tries to chat me up on a night out I say I have a boyfriend. I throw in that he's a very possessive MMA fighter if they won't leave me alone."

Camille: "I've been lying about my age for years but to be honest it's an outright lie... not making me younger, I'm down as 112 on my Facebook. I think I look great for that age! Also Judge the puppet dog is my pic, so that's a visual lie to go with it."

Are they on Team Meghan or Team Kate?

Camille and Kathleen together: "Team Catherine."

Twink: "Both. Wonderful young women... continuing to uphold the high bar of individuality that Diana set for the new young female Royals."

Pat Shortt: "They're both lovely ladies."

Victoria: "I think they probably do get on and I wouldn't want to choose, but I would probably go for Harry more than Wills."

What made them proud to be Irish in 2018?

Twink: "That this tiny little island continues to lead the way globally on issues like Gay Marriage... and the abortion referendum."

Pat Shortt: "Beating the All Blacks was amazing, although I missed it, I was working but the Repeal the Eighth was amazing as well. It's great to witness Ireland emerging as a modern state."

Holly Carpenter: "Marching through the streets of Dublin with women, men and children in favour of Repealing the Eighth. I felt so proud when I saw news reports from all around the world about our progressive nation."

What made them ashamed to be Irish in 2018?

Kathleen: "Somebody defacing the war memorial with red paint."

Pat Shortt: "It's great to see Ireland emerging as a modern state but then you see the homeless situation and you wonder where have we gone wrong and what are we becoming. The hospital trolley situation is brutal but not new. Are we going backwards in some ways? There are so many reasons to be ashamed to be Irish, where do you start?"

Holly Carpenter: "The cervical check controversy. It was beyond shameful and heart-breaking."

Twink: "Seeing people sleeping in the doorways of the Gaiety in particular. I've performed there since I was an infant... and this is a new and shameful situation. Instead of seeing the outdoor canopy as a place to stand and chat, pre or post show, these decent homeless poor people see it as their bedroom. Shame on us!"

Victoria: "Nothing makes me ashamed to be Irish, but for the same reason. Humans are good and bad and everything in-between."

No wiser words will be spoken this Yuletide. By this point it was getting very late - and the guests were very determined that this was not to become a silent night by any description. So they decamped for more refreshments in the plush bar of the InterContinental. They were all a lively and infectious vision of wit and intellect and sartorial perfection.

WC Fields was fond of saying that Christmas at his house is always at least six or seven times more pleasant than anywhere else. They start drinking early. And while everyone else is seeing only one Santa Claus, he and his friends would be seeing six or seven.

So, it was perhaps with Mr Pussy, Camille O'Sullivan, Lisa Cannon, Victoria Mary Clarke, Celia Holman Lee and a quite few others as the party of the year looked like never ending. And you know what? We wouldn't want it to end.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Festive Afternoon Tea at the five-star Intercontinental Dublin, priced €40pp, is served daily from 12noon to 6pm until December 31 (excluding 24th, 25th and 26th). Reservations are essential. Willy Wonka-themed Festive Brunch on St Stephen's Day and New Year's Day InterContinental Dublin is also offering 'Sunday Independent' readers 10pc off luxury rooms and suites with complementary breakfast, bookable for a limited time. Valid for stays until March 31, 2019. See website for terms and conditions. Not applicable for use with any other offers or packages. Blackout Dates apply. To book visit www.intercontinentaldublin.ie or call 01-6654000. Intercontinental Dublin was recently voted sixth best hotel in Ireland by Conde Nast readers - it is five-star accredited with the AA, and was recently awarded two AA rosettes for food.

Make Christmas memorable with a visit to the Butlers Chocolate Experience. All visits must be pre-booked. Book at butlerschocolates.com/book and save 5pc on entry or call 01 6710599.

"I once heard that I was a divil for the drink! Which was so funny because nothing could be further from the truth!"

Sunday Independent

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