'It's a long time since I've been this happy'
Ryan Tubridy tells Andrea Byrne about his new love and how he was taken aback by his feelings over his new job
He has endured what he calls "the sad years" and "the bumpy years" but Ryan Tubridy is now finally happy in his own skin.
Tubridy admits that being named the new host of the Late Late Show has been unexpectedly emotional but he is ecstatic at landing the biggest job in Irish broadcasting. And the icing on the cake is that he can share his happiness with the new woman in his life, stunning former Rose of Tralee winner Aoibhinn Ni Shuilleabhain.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Independent, Ryan Tubridy has revealed for the first time that the pair are romantically involved.
"Aoibhinn and I are dating. I like to think we are happy and we would love to be able to do it with as much dignity as is humanly possible and doesn't involve people phoning relatives of relatives and hiding in bushes and sneaking up trees. It would be a lot easier if we could do things quietly, so we fully intend to. We don't go to parties and launches and openings -- not our style," he says.
Tubridy was deeply angered when snatched photographs of him enjoying a romantic walk with his new girlfriend at Powerscourt waterfall in Co Wicklow appeared in the papers.
"My attitude is, what you see on the TV or hear on the radio -- that's my job. Beyond the walls of Montrose, is me, and it's my private time. I don't get paid for that... I always stop and say 'hi' to people. I always pose for photos -- delighted to. But if you hide behind a bush, if you hide up a tree, that's not acceptable and if you're taking photos like sneaky people did last week, that's not acceptable, because it's not fair, it's not kind and it's mean-spirited.
"I hate that. You didn't ask permission. You didn't think about the consequences. You didn't care about the person I was with and their family, you didn't care about anything, you just cared about yourself and a grubby little cheque, and that's not right... have a bit of respect, or human decency," he says.
The newly promoted star is even more insulted by the suggestion that the photos taken hours before he was handed the biggest job on Irish television were staged.
"Any suggestion of that is offensive and actually sickening. It's not my style. I was not brought up that way. I come from a family that respects itself and would not be involved with such grubby shenanigans."
Dressed in a blue Paul Smith suit and striped pink tie, Tubridy sighs deeply as he sinks into the red couch, in, rather appropriately what is used as the Late Late green room. Today he is, with the exception of a passionate polemic on the recent invasion of his privacy, uncharacteristically calm and relaxed. There's very little fidgeting, hand-tapping and shuffling which was a trademark of the old Ryan. Perhaps this is because, as he says himself, "Life is good!"
On Monday, it was announced that he was the new host of the most-watched and iconic show on Irish television, and in doing so saw off competition from two senior colleagues, Miriam O'Callaghan and Gerry Ryan.
"It has been a tumultuous week, an amazing week, a happy week for my family and my friends and for me on a personal level, for my kids. It has been an emotional week. I was taken aback by the strength of how emotional this was, because I am not one to wear it on my sleeve. I deal with things privately generally, but because it was so public and it was such a full glare, it's hard not to bring some of that out. It's so big in my universe, I know the rest of the world doesn't care too much about it, but in my world it was a big event and I was taken aback by its strength and my emotions, and by the volume of comment on the news, the letters, the emails, the texts, the pleasantness of it... everything sounds like such false modesty, it's not... There wasn't an inch of me that was expecting it," insists the father of two.
The new Late Late host insists that he has not discussed money with RTE bosses. "People seem gobsmacked that I haven't. I have just been given what is unquestionably the biggest job of my life, I wasn't going to say, right, 'let's talk money'. That's for another day."
He believes his Saturday night show should continue with a new host.
"At the most selfish level, I know that until January it's not an issue... it's very useful to me that I am the only chat show around. Just for the first few months. It would be hypocritical of me to say it's a bad idea. I have been that other show. Ultimately, somebody else should have a go on Saturday night. I think that there is room for two chat shows, we proved that."
Tubridy's younger brother Garrett is the latest in the long line of politicians in the family. He's running for local election in Pembroke/Rathmines; however, Ryan insists that he won't be canvassing.
"My politics remain at the gate of RTE -- that's the policy. I haven't canvassed for Gar. I can't canvass for Gar. He's my brother and I love him and I want him to do well in whatever he chooses to do. He's a hard worker, he's a gentleman and he's my brother, what am I going to do? Other than hug him and wish him well."
Despite reports to the contrary, Tubridy maintains that he never, at any point, ruled himself out of the running for the Late Late job.
"What I said was that I am very happy where I am. I love doing Saturday nights. I didn't lust after the Late Late Show, but I did not say: 'I am out of the race'. Never. In my head, I felt I was never going to get this job, that I was doing well where I was, but I didn't say: 'I am out'. Because if you want to rule yourself out of a job, it's very easy to do that... and then you let the bosses deal with two horses and not three," he explains.
He may not have had too much time to think about it but Tubridy is very keen to put his own stamp on the long-running show.
"The Late Late has been number one in the ratings for all the years Pat has done it. It's not a show that was dwindling or in trouble, it wasn't broken, didn't need fixing. But I do things differently. My attitude to life is different to Pat Kenny's or Gay Byrne's. I'm of this generation... We have to reflect a show that is Ireland in 2009.
"I am going to take this challenge. I am going to run at it. I am going to surround myself with the best people I can and I just really hope that I can deliver on the expectations, because there are so many both close to home and around the country, and that's not an easy task," he says.
Admittedly, the 35-year-old presenter is relishing the opportunity to sink his teeth into the more meaty, hard-news, in-depth interviews that were not possible on Tubridy Tonight.
He's also keen to bring his band, The Camembert Quartet, to the Late Late. "I can see them working. I just need to hopefully convince the bosses that this is a wise move."
He acknowledges that this more high-profile position will generate even more public interest in his private life.
"I am a big boy and I came into this business with my eyes open and I have developed a very thick skin and you take the brickbats. Like I say, I am paid well, I do my job, you're in front of a camera... all I would ask is the veneer of respect and bit of dignity. But the rest, it goes with the territory -- being photographed whatever -- but if it goes on and on and on, I'll just become a hermit," he says, "I won't go out again, I want my own time... I just have to be a bit wary about where I go."
The presenter's "incredible week" got even better after he learned that his radio show had gained a further 18,000 listeners, bringing his morning show audience to 330,000.
"I am very happy in my life at the moment. It has been a long time since I have been this happy...
"I've had bumpy years like any human being in Ireland and I have had sad years. I have had happy-ish times, but I never thought I would get to a point where I could just look around me and look at my folks and my daughters and look at my siblings and my dearest friends and think, this is a good place to be and it is -- it's a very good place to be.
"If I fell off a cliff tomorrow, I wouldn't mind too much," he says, chuckling loudly, "and I know there'd be a few people there ready to push!"