Long before he became a household name, a shy 12-year-old Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh appeared in a Christmas report on RTÉ, coyly answering questions about Santa Claus.
It was her first taste of the medium that would become a lifelong career.
Decades later, she had become one of the most well-known and arguably most outspoken and even controversial TV hosts in the country when she wrote in 2018 that women “cannot and will not be subverted, humiliated and sexualized because of our gender.”
“We need to be able to speak up in a safe space and demand behavior change without losing potential employment positions,” she wrote.
“My professional experience is that if you complain, if we don’t change the power structure, you will suffer.”
She almost ended up in London after getting a taste of it during the summer of her Leaving Cert in the late 1980s, working in the River Island warehouse and enjoying the city’s multiculturalism.
But her father told her to come home, and on a subsequent encounter with a newspaper advertisement for a job as a reporter/presenter on an Irish-language program at RTÉ, she typed in her resume and sent it off.
The job ended up being a roving reporter Scaoil amach to Bobailin – a vibrant Irish language television show featuring comedy sketches, rock music and social and political debates presented by Seán Bán Breathnach and Cynthia Ní Mhurchú.
The series first aired on October 7, 1990 and ran until 1992.
Bláthnaid later recalled how she passed her screen test by imitating the voice and idiosyncrasies of Olivia O’Leary – but her fluent Irish from her hometown of Ráth Chairn, Co Meath got her a long way.
Both sets of grandparents were originally from Connemara but took part in De Valera’s great social experiment in the 1930s, establishing a Gaeltacht colony in Meath.
Bláthnaid was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1970 when her parents, Nan and Seán, moved there to enable Seán to pursue postgraduate studies in chemical engineering.
Missing her family, they returned to Ireland when she was a young child, and Seán later became a senior civil servant at the Department of the Environment, while Nan provided housing for students who came to Ráth Chairn to learn Irish. They had four other children – Siobhán, Marie, Bríd and Ciarán.
But with no secondary school in the Meath Gaeltacht, Bláthnaid came to live with a family in Dublin while attending the famous Gaelscoil Coláiste Íosagáin in Booterstown.
From her early beginnings in Irish language programming she transitioned into teen show Yeah Maxiwhich then turned into Echo Islandand she has proven herself as a presenter alongside Dara Ó Briain, Derek Mooney, Mary Kingston and Carrie Crowley.
She and Mooney considered themselves co-hosts, with Mooney narrating that Sunday independent in 2017: “I know we both have a touch of Marmite. Each has a touch of Marmite.
“That’s life. I just like Bláthnaid. She’s pretty straightforward.”
He even went so far as to drive her to the hospital for the birth of their fourth baby.
Married to award-winning music producer Ciarán Byrne for almost 30 years, she once revealed she made love “as Gaeilge”.
She recently spoke of “falling in love with her husband again” after previously saying marriage was “no picnic”.
In 2018, she even had a blazing argument between the couple filmed for a documentary. Lig Liomin which she accused him of never trying to learn Irish.
The couple have four children together, Síle (26), Peadar (22), Comhghal (20) and Darach (19). peadar
Ó Cofaigh Byrne is considered one of the rising stars of Dublin football.
Bláthnaid’s most famous presentation appearance was in 2004 when she was revealed as the face of The Afternoon Show, RTÉ’s flagship daytime programme, alongside Sheana Keane. However, controversy ensued with allegations of bullying, and she left the show in 2009 amid a media storm.
Ms Keane took an extended sick leave following the allegations. But she returned to the big screen in September 2009 with Maura Derrane.
Bláthnaid claimed the long-running ‘bullying probe’ saga and media speculation about her future in broadcasting had contributed to her serious health problems after spending time in hospital with a twisted intestine the previous year.
She then said it would be “ridiculous” to continue The Afternoon Show and that she got “a terrible scare” when told she could lose her bowel and end up with a colostomy bag if she doesn’t scale back.
Her years away from our screens was a “troubled” time for her, she later said, adding that she had been ill and her father had died.
As an RTÉ staffer who stayed on the payroll, her next career move was to become a judge in the All Ireland Talent Showas well as continue to present the station’s St. Patrick’s Day coverage and perform other roles.
In 2013, she vowed never to return to daytime television because there was “too much responsibility.”
In 2017 she said she would have liked to present Dancing with the stars but was not even subjected to a screen test.
Revealed as nationwide Hosting alongside Anne Cassin in 2020, her return to a regular TV appearance raised eyebrows from her colleagues in Montrose.
She was among the stars gathered for a retirement party at RTÉ, which was found to have broken Covid restrictions.
It emerged this week that she has filed an Employment Equality Act complaint against the state broadcaster, alleging discrimination through harassment in July 2019 and subsequent victimization.
https://www.independent.ie/news/newsmaker-from-bullying-allegations-to-sexual-harassment-claims-blathnaid-ni-chofaigh-has-had-an-eventful-30-years-on-and-off-screen-at-rte-41623878.html Newsmaker: Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh has had an eventful 30 years on and off screen at RTÉ, from allegations of bullying to allegations of sexual harassment