I was never go­ing to be a slave to RTÉ. I love my kids too much

Ryan Tubridy opens up about learn­ing from Gay Byrne’s mis­takes and why he wishes he’d had ‘a clat­ter of chil­dren’

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - by Eoin Mur­phy EN­TER­TAIN­MENT EDI­TOR

IT IS a crisp af­ter­noon in Dublin and Ryan Tubridy ar­rives at Cin­na­mon café in Monkstown with a smile on his face. Wear­ing a swad­dling tai­lored coat and a natty scarf, he takes a cor­ner ta­ble in the café. We’re here to talk about work and, re­luc­tant though he is, his pri­vate life. Ryan rarely opens up about his per­sonal life, in­sist­ing that he gives enough of him­self on his ra­dio and tele­vi­sion show and needs to keep a lit­tle some­thing back for him­self.

But dur­ing our café con­ver­sa­tion, he opened up about be­ing a fa­ther, how he wishes he could have had more chil­dren, about what he learned from Gay Byrne about get­ting his pri­or­i­ties right, and why he is ob­sessed with tak­ing on bul­lies.

The pre­sen­ter is fa­ther to Ella and Ju­lia, who he had with ex-wife and RTÉ pro­ducer Anne Marie Power. Ryan ad­mits he would have liked more chil­dren, but now ac­cepts that his two girls are now his en­tire world. ‘Yes, I did think about a big­ger fam­ily,’ he says. ‘I think I would have liked a clat­ter of kids, but it wasn’t to be. So, I just look at my girls now and I just swell with pride ev­ery time I think about them, they bring very dif­fer­ent things to the ta­ble and they are my be all and end all, bar noth­ing. They are why I live.’

They are also the rea­son why he re­fuses to fol­low his men­tor Gay Byrne’s foot­steps and de­vote the ma­jor­ity of his work­ing life to Mon­trose. Gay, now 83, was di­ag­nosed with prostate can­cer in 2016 and in the course of his treat­ment he has un­der­gone eight rounds of chemo­ther­apy, the fi­nal two of which were par­tic­u­larly gru­elling.

Gay has re­vealed that he had re­grets that he didn’t al­low him­self to take more time off, to be around his fam­ily. Ryan says he has had many con­ver­sa­tions with his men­tor Gay re­gard­ing that sub­ject and he made a de­ci­sion to never let RTÉ own his life.

‘I was con­scious of that from the very be­gin­ning. That’s why I never did it,’ he says. ‘I never be­came a pro­ducer of the pro­gramme or asked for a credit. It was never on the cards be­cause I was never go­ing to be a slave. No way. I love my kids too much and I love my time with them too much. I was never go­ing to miss the key el­e­ments of be­ing a dad by work­ing. I wasn’t go­ing to be that per­son. I prob­a­bly learned a lot of that from what Gay did. I was never go­ing to do that.

‘We would have had a few drinks to­gether over the years and he would have said that to me and talked to me about his own fam­ily and the time us dads spend with our kids. And I felt he was rue­ful about that and wist­ful. I thought, we are dif­fer­ent. We have dif­fer­ent re­la­tion­ships with our kids than he did. I don’t think he should beat him­self up about it, be­cause it was a dif­fer­ent time.

‘We are of an era where we tell our kids we love them all the time. That’s not to say we are bet­ter dads we are just bet­ter at show­ing it. I work on the premise of fam­ily first and ev­ery­thing else will fol­low.’

And that for­mula does seem to be work­ing for Ryan pro­fes­sion­ally. His daily ra­dio show is rid­ing high in the lat­est JNLR book of rat­ings bring­ing in 313,000 to his hour-long show. He now feels extremely com­fort­able with the show, which he has been host­ing since he took over from John Murray three years ago.

Now aged 45, he says that he is fi­nally at ease with his lot in life and ad­mits that turn­ing 40 threw up some big emo­tional speed bumps.

‘I think I had about three mid-life crises,’ he says with a smile. ‘I started my ca­reer re­ally young and I prob­a­bly had a few mo­ments where I had to stop and groan. But at 40 I had a bit of mo­ment be­cause my world went pe­cu­liar. For that year, I strug­gled. I thought I was go­ing to breeze though it ca­su­ally, but I didn’t.

‘Then my fa­ther passed away in the mid­dle of that and that hit me, and I wasn’t feel­ing great about my­self or the world. I didn’t think I was be­ing par­tic­u­larly good at what I was do­ing for a liv­ing and I don’t think I was at the top of my game in any­thing.

‘It took me un­til maybe 42 to con­vince my­self to cop on a bit and pick my­self up and get on with life. My fa­vorite karaoke song is That’s Life from Frank Si­na­tra and he sings about dust­ing your­self off and get­ting back in the game. That’s what I did, and it’s prob­a­bly why I am in such a good place now.

‘I don’t have the hang-ups and neu­roses of be­ing younger any more.’

The ra­dio show has changed greatly over time and Ryan says that he be­lieves he has grown into the role of host and no longer cares about what peo­ple think of him. He says that over the past few months he has de­cided to let go of any hang-ups and use his pul­pit to tackle the scourge of bul­ly­ing, which he be­lieves is rife.

‘I stopped be­ing overly con­cerned about the im­pact of ev­ery word I would say would have with cer­tain sec­tions of the au­di­ence,’ he says. ‘I stopped try­ing to please every­one I just started speak­ing my mind with­out be­ing rude.

‘I think that is age. At 35 you are pre­co­cious and not worldly, at 45 you have that bit more ex­pe­ri­ence. You cer­tainly don’t know it all, but you know a bit more and I have con­fi­dence in my con­vic­tions now.

‘What hap­pened with the ra­dio show is I started each day riff­ing about what was in the pa­pers and gen­eral chit-chat and then we got this feed­back that the lis­ten­ers en­joyed it. That got a bit longer and none of it is writ­ten down and it is just what is on

‘I swell with pride ev­ery time I think of my girls’

my mind now and peo­ple seem to like it. They text in whether they agree with me or not and it is sin­cere and au­then­tic and what I be­lieve.’

TUBS likes to talk on any num­ber of is­sues but there is one cause that sets his blood boil­ing. On Tues­day morn­ing a lis­tener wrote in whose daugh­ter had de­vel­oped bu­limia after re­peated bul­ly­ing from two class­mates on the school bus. ‘I hate bul­lies,’ he says. ‘Any­one who is big­ger than some­one else and uses that power in a neg­a­tive way is a bully. I think do­mes­tic vi­o­lence just up­sets me greatly. You see these kids and it is so hurt­ful and when you are a dad ev­ery kid is your kid be­cause you im­me­di­ately imag­ine your own son or daugh­ter in their place. That “what if” sce­nario. If you don’t talk about it on the ra­dio, then the bul­lies win be­cause they have some­where to hide. Some­one has to say some­thing, and it may as well be me.

‘Some­one may turn around and say, “Shut your mouth you don’t know what the hell you are talk­ing about.” I will take them on. But I will keep go­ing, be­cause these peo­ple don’t have a voice. The bul­lied child at school, the beaten wife, the gaslit hus­band, the kid who is sub­jected by mock­ery on­line and is chased be­yond the school gate into the phone and into the bed­room. Who is go­ing to stand up for them and put pres­sure on the rel­e­vant bod­ies?

‘We live in a coun­try where peo­ple have been liv­ing un­der rugs and hid­ing be­hind cur­tains for decades while women get beaten and chil­dren bul­lied. It is sick­en­ing and it has to stop.

‘All I do is present a ra­dio show, but if it helps to give a voice to those peo­ple with­out be­ing of­fen­sive then good.

‘I never was bul­lied, but I have this in­nate need to talk about it. I find it is so hard to un­der­stand how peo­ple do these things and I also like to think we’re talk­ing to the bul­lies. I want them to hear the pain they are caus­ing and the hurt and sav­agery they have com­mit­ted with their mean­ness. I am try­ing to shame them as they drive to work. I think it is one of the rea­sons the ra­dio show is work­ing is peo­ple be­lieve I am be­ing sin­cere.’

At the end of the month Ryan will once again take the reins at the Toy Show, the big­gest Ir­ish tele­vi­sion event of the year. It is that spe­cial time of year where he gets to em­brace his in­ner child, and he seems to have a tal­ent when it comes to en­ter­tain­ing the younger punter. So much so that Ryan has just pub­lished a new chil­dren’s Christ­mas book which tells the story of Hil­lary, a unique sheep that saves Santa.

‘The new book is about a lit­tle sheep in a field with a mul­ti­coloured fleece called Hi­lary, the sheep who dared to be dif­fer­ent,’ he says with a grin. ‘She just likes mak­ing lists and Christ­mas. She stands out in the field she is in with all the other sheep that look the same.

‘She is alone but not lonely. She is sit­ting there dream­ing and she is one of those kids. She is not be­ing bul­lied or up­set but she is not run­ning with the flock. Santa comes down and he is cold and needs a new jumper and he picks a sheep. And you will never guess who he picks. The book is full of re­ally bad sheep puns. It is just an easy read for chil­dren.

But the book won’t be fol­lowed by a longer work, he in­sists: ‘I don’t have a novel in me. I don’t have the abil­ity. I love read­ing them I just don’t think I have it in me. I might write an­other his­tory book when the Late Late fin­ishes up. But a novel, no. I don’t have any ideas or any de­sire to write one.’

As the in­ter­view comes to an end, Ryan is ea­ger to make sure we have cov­ered enough top­ics. ‘Have you enough you can use?’ he asks. I won­der how he feels about the last few years which saw RTÉ in­tro­duce cut after cut and even saw them sell off some of the cam­pus.

I ask him where he thinks the next gen­er­a­tion of new tal­ent will come from now that RTE is out­sourc­ing a lot of its out­put.

‘I came through the ranks and I just think that the com­pe­ti­tion is so in­tense now. Look at the stream­ing ser­vices and the lack of ad­ver­tis­ing. The place is un­der enor­mous pres­sure be­cause we still have to make pro­grammes and sur­vive. I re­ally be­lieve that they have trimmed the place down and of­fered pack­ages and they have sold the land.

‘RTÉ is be­ing reimag­ined and peo­ple can’t say we are just sit­ting there do­ing noth­ing. They are not, they are try­ing to fix it and I can only say fair play to them. I would like to see new tal­ent com­ing through I just think that there is so much hap­pen­ing else­where be­yond ter­res­trial tele­vi­sion.

‘YouTu­bers for ex­am­ple, I think that is where we are go­ing to find the next big thing. I don’t know if there is enough pro­grammes be­ing made in-house for us to find some­one there. Who knows, but all the kids are watch­ing Youtube.’

‘I have con­fi­dence in my con­vic­tions now’ ‘YouTube is where we’ll find the next big thing’

The Ryan Tubridy show is on RTÉ Ra­dio One from Mon­day to Fri­day at 9am.

happy days: After a tough few years, Ryan Tubridy feels good about work and his per­sonal life; in­set be­low, the Toy Show re­turns at the end of the month

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