Friday 28 October 2016

Maura Derrane: 'Going on air for an hour every day is peanuts compared to being a mother'

RTE's Maura Derrane talks about motherhood, TV and her fame-hungry rivals

Maura Derrane
Maura Derrane
Maura with Joanna Kiernan

Maura Derrane knows a thing or two about staying power - with almost two decades of TV broadcasting under her belt, her star continues to shine on full beam.

This week Maura returned to our daytime TV screens on RTE's Today show, following the summer break.

Now in its fourth season the show, which she co-presents alongside Dáithí Ó Sé, is going from strength to strength, with an extra 30 minutes added to the running time. However, Maura is always prepared for the fact she may not get that all important summer phone call.

Maura Derrane and Joanna Kiernan

"TV is very unpredictable. If the ratings are down you are out the door - it's as simple as that. You don't know any year if you are coming back," Maura explains.

"It's perilous really. It doesn't bother me now though because I have done it like this for so long," she adds with a smile. "It's not that you expect the worst every year, but you always have it at the back of your mind - you are ready for the possibility that something may not get that go ahead again."

Maura, who began her career as a researcher for RTE News in Galway, believes luck and a certain amount of blind faith are key components to survive in such a dog-eat-dog industry.

"I have always been very lucky career-wise, something else always comes along for me," she says.

"It's almost like I have this positive attitude and it's worked out because of that, so I am not about to change it now. It's very easy for people to get nervous in this business, but there is no point living on the edge every day, you've got to go with things."

Maura and Daithi O Se

Shortly after she married Fine Gael TD John Deasy in 2005, Maura choose to take a break from TV.

"I left television when I finished co-presenting Ireland AM, which I had presented for two years," she explains.

"I had just been married and I never liked mornings to be straight with you - it was a lot of commuting and I just decided I needed a break. I had worked in TV since I was about 22, so I took a break and I did a bit of writing, but I am always drawn back to media. I think it's where my heart is and what I am best at is TV."

Before her Ireland AM gig, Maura had been immersed in more hard news roles - at one point she was the TV3 Crime Correspondent. However, following her career hiatus Maura moved towards 'lighter' day-time TV. "All of my background is hard news," she explains. "But crime can be hard going mentally and I just felt that I wanted a bit of lightness in my life. I really loved crime and I still have a great interest in it, but it can really take over your life and my mother would say to me that I was getting quite hard and I was."

Maura feels this broad journalistic experience gives her a unique vantage point in an industry, which is now becoming saturated with individuals desiring fame and glory, rather than quality, long-term broadcasting careers.

"Nowadays you have all of these people who just want to go on TV and be famous. There is no interest in anything - they just want to be famous.

"I have an interest in everything I have done, so I just don't get that," Maura says. "I am on here to pay the bills and tomorrow, if I won the lottery would I be doing it? I don't know."


When we meet, Maura and her beautiful 16-month-old son Cal, who has come along for the spin, are fresh from their family holiday in Italy.

"He is great," Maura smiles down at Cal, who returns a tiny grin. "He likes travelling because you see he is very inquisitive by nature. Like any child towards the end of the flight he was a bit grouchy, but he loves snooping as you can see here.

"We were so long on our own and John and myself did a lot of travelling over the years; we brought him away first when he was three-months-old and it's easy when they are tiny because they are like handbags - you can just park them there and they go asleep, but it's all different now," Maura laughs.

"You are looking at everything to cater for him, you are going out much earlier to eat, you are looking at one drink and then home. I'm no longer out sizzling on the beach all day - it's more about taking turns to go out in the sun for an hour now and bringing him for little swims. It's not about you anymore and that's good I think. I mean it's tiring, but good."

Maura is refreshingly honest about how motherhood has changed her life and how daunting becoming a mother for the first time was for her.

"It's frightening and you don't know what to do and you can read a million books, but every child is different. There is no one recipe, so you have to kind of just go with it," she explains.

"I will never forget the first night we brought him home from hospital. He had been six weeks early, so he spent a week in the hospital and was a tiny little thing of only six pounds. When we brought him home he started to cry just uncontrollably.

"So here I was at 4am calling Holles Street going 'there is something wrong with my child' and the nurse was like 'OK calm down, go downstairs and get a soother'.

"So I ran down and got one and then she said to prop him up between two pillows and turn on the light. It was so sad, he was just like this little woodland creature and do you know what it was?"

Maura cuddles a now burlier Cal into her tightly. "He was afraid because he had been in the hospital with the lights on and loads of people around the whole time and all of a sudden he was in a quiet house with the lights off and he was scared. These are the little things you just can't know beforehand."

Over a year later, however, Maura, who is an ambassador for the Danone First 1,000 Days nutrition movement, has found her groove.

"With every moment that passes your confidence increases, but in the beginning you are just jelly," she laughs. "I was going around and it was like I had taken a bomb rather than a baby home in the car seat with me. I was scared to even touch him, but it is amazing how you become familiar with them very quickly. You get to know them very fast, but really at the start they are a little stranger coming into your house.

"They are yours, I know, but it's this strange little creature too. So it's tough. He's getting to this really funny stage now where he is really interesting, he understands so many things.

"He's very dramatic," Maura adds with a smile. "I think he's going to be an actor or something like that - he's all drama and he has no fear, he loves the attention.

"I want him to do everything. It's very important having just the one, I really want to give him outlets to be with other children, so I think I'm going to be a bit of a pushy mom. I'd like him to do everything first and then pick what he wants to keep up."

Maura is looking forward to returning to work following her summer off with Cal.

"To be honest it is so much easier to work," Maura laughs, before getting up to make a dash for Cal who has broken free and is now making a giggling getaway from our table. "I will be totally straight with you - work is a doddle," Maura says as she returns with Cal in her arms.

"I am really glad I am in a position where I finished up work at the end of April for the season and now I am back in September, so I have that time with him at this early stage, but I find it is so much easier to go to work.

"Going on air for an hour and a bit every day is peanuts compared to this!" Maura chuckles.

"I am more wrecked after a day with him. It is hugely underestimated.

"At least when you are working you can have a coffee break, you can have your lunch. There is no break in this, forget it.

"I will be driving away to work with a smile on my face if anything," Maura laughs.

"I am not an evil person, but I have to be honest about it. It's been brilliant, but I am one of those people who needs to do a bit of both.

"The sanity of work is good for you - I think it keeps you alive. I really don't get the guilt."

For more information on the Danone Early Life Nutrition First 1,000 Days movement see: www.first1000days.ie.

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