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Saturday 16 December 2017

Ciara Whelan: 'For a country that is so intelligent, it just blows my mind that we don't breast feed more, it's just bonkers'

Presenter Ciara Whelan talks about life, working with her other half and their miracle baby

Ciara Whelan
Ciara Whelan
Joanna Kiernan talks to Ciara Whelan
Ciara Whelan.

Ciara Whelan turns heads as she makes her way into Kilashee House Hotel in her adopted home of County Kildare for our interview. However, she is endearingly unaware of the admiring glances.

Ten minutes beforehand, she confides with a giggle, she was in a tracksuit feeding her 10-month-old daughter Bo.

Ciara and her on and off screen partner Jon Slattery were over the moon when they discovered they were expecting Bo, against all the odds.

"I'm going to sound like such a sap but I am so happy," Ciara tells me, inspecting her latte with glee.

"We were never supposed to have a baby in the first place, we were actually going for IVF when I found out I was pregnant. So it was like winning the lotto a million times over.

Read More: Mums warned of smoking risks while breastfeeding

"I had always heard those stories about it happening to people, but would think 'Yeah right, that never happens!' We had something like a one or two per cent chance of having a baby naturally, so it was amazing."

A number of complications meant that Ciara was forced to be extremely cautious throughout her pregnancy.

"I just went to the gym this morning to sign up because I haven't done exercise since I found out I was pregnant," she laughs.

"I was so careful. I was three stone overweight going in, lying in bed, minding that baby until she popped out!"

Ciara and Jon had been trying for a baby for a while before they realised something was wrong.

"My GP asked had we any plans to have a baby and I said 'yeah we've actually been trying for a while and it hasn't happened', so she sent us for some tests. It turned out I was fine, but Jon had a low sperm count and the sperm that he had were all dodgy and swimming around backwards!" Ciara laughs.

"But Jon is such a positive person he was like 'Yeah! I've got a million sperm!' and I was crying into my tea saying 'that's not good Jon! We need like 200 million!"

Some months later after they had already begun looking into IVF and attended an information evening on the process, Ciara found out that she was pregnant.

"You are in a room with like 200 other couples and there is a doctor there saying 'a lot of you will never have kids, those are the percentages'. I remember sitting there thinking I am not one of those people, but in the back of my mind knowing that every other single person in the room was thinking the same thing," Ciara explains.

"When I found out I was pregnant. It was just mind blowing. We were ecstatic. She is such a happy baby and I think that's because she picked up from my good vibes throughout the pregnancy."

After eight months of maternity leave, Ciara once again joined forces with her partner Jon last November to film The Holiday Show's current series.

babysitting

 

The gruelling schedule meant that this time around Ciara and Jon, plus baby Bo, hit Ireland's tourist trail to discover what some of the more off-beat locations have to offer, with Ciara's mother in toe for childminding duties.

And Ciara (34), as the eldest of five children, the youngest of which is just 14, had no qualms about drafting her mum in for the job.

"It's brilliant because my mum owes me so many hours of babysitting, so I can just throw the baby at her," she laughs.

Motherhood, according to Ciara, has turned her into a bit of a 'hippy.'

"I used to think that attachment parents were all a bit mad, but my baby is always attached to me. It's just natural," she says.

"I'm breastfeeding. I was determined I was going to breast feed my baby or at least give it a go. It was horrific at the start, but that made me even more determined to crack it," she explains.

"For a country that is so intelligent and so educated it just blows my mind that we don't breast feed more, it's just bonkers," Ciara adds.

As one half of TV3's hit travel series The Holiday Show, Ciara's relationship with her co-presenter and partner Jon makes for intriguing viewing.

"People do say, whether it's a commissioning editor or maybe someone will stop us on the street and say 'you guys have great chemistry' and I'll just think thank god!" Ciara laughs.

"Eleven years later you'd hope that you haven't lost it. We have fun; we don't take ourselves too seriously.

BEAUTIFUL

"Jon definitely doesn't take himself too seriously. I am probably the most serious one of us two. I am the grown up, so now I have a baby and a giant man to look after."

However, Ciara admits that there are challenges to working with your other half.

"We kill each other all the time," she tells me. "Jon is completely laid back to the point where he is almost horizontal, he just doesn't worry about anything, whereas I do.

"This is our fourth series, but the second Irish series of The Holiday Show, so at the start I was asking to Jon 'are you sure?' I wasn't sure that there was enough stuff to see around Ireland to have a second series, but there were loads," Ciara adds.

"There were six episodes in this series and six in the last one and you could do another two series in Ireland alone. Ireland is just beautiful. I love it. I was in such a happy bubble after having Bo that I think it's the most fun I have had."

Ciara is used to multi-tasking. Not only does she co-present The Holiday Show, she also produces the series and Jon also moonlights as their sound engineer. In fact Ciara and Jon own and run the production company behind The Holiday Show, Trilogy Media, together.

So how does Ciara feel about UTV Ireland entering the Irish TV industry mix?

"It's interesting. Obviously it is going to effect us, but we are just hoping that people watch the shows and enjoy them," she says. "But at the same time, we are a production company, so we have spoken to UTV about other ideas.

"Competition is good. It keeps everyone on their toes," Ciara adds. "Irish producers need to concentrate a bit more on getting production values up and I think if there is competition that will happen."

Ciara and Jon met in 2003 on the set of Last One Standing, a quiz show that Jon was presenting on RTE, and have been inseparable ever since.

"It was a slow burner, he chased me for a couple of months," Ciara smiles. "I remember actually my sister was sick at the time and I always tell Jon to thank her.

"She was really sick, she's fine now, but at the time she had cancer and was in St Luke's hospital. It had been about two or three weeks of me putting him off and he rang me while I was in the hospital with her.

"She could hear him on the phone and was like, 'You should go out with him! He's got a really nice voice!' So I said yes and we went out."

cancer

Ciara puts herself and Jon's compatibility down to her being the 'real grown up' in the relationship, despite a 10 year age gap between the pair. Jon proposed last year, but there are no wedding plans just yet.

"I didn't think he was organised at all, but he actually had the ring about 14 months because he was going to propose the year before, but my granddad actually died on St Stephen's Day so it wasn't the right day to propose," Ciara explains.

"So he ended up doing it the following year when I was pregnant. It was bad timing but it was good timing," she smiles. "He proposed in my parents' house.

"I think I probably will get married, but some of my friends got married last year and I have another friend getting married in August, so I think I'll wait for the calm and do it in about 10 years," Ciara adds. "I'd just like a big party. We'll get around to it eventually."

Another goal of Ciara's is to front a property show at some point.

"We love property, even in our own personal lives we are always renovating something," she tells me. "So I'd love to do property programmes.

"Jon is always laughing at me because I'm always looking for the next house to buy and it is always the sh*tholes that I am looking at.

"I can't just buy a nice normal house and just move into it, it has to have rats running around!" Ciara laughs.

The Holiday Show is on tonight at 8pm on TV3

However, Ciara admits that there are challenges to working with your other half.

"We kill each other all the time," she tells me. "Jon is completely laid back to the point where he is almost horizontal, he just doesn't worry about anything, whereas I do."

"This is our fourth series, but the second Irish series of The Holiday Show, so at the start I was asking to Jon 'are you sure?' I wasn't sure that there was enough stuff to see around Ireland to have a second series, but there were loads," Ciara adds.

"There were six episodes in this series and six in the last one and you could do another two series in Ireland alone. Ireland is just beautiful. I love it. I was in such a happy bubble after having Bo that I think it's the most fun I have had."

Ciara is used to multitasking. Not only does she co-present The Holiday Show, she also produces the series and Jon also moonlights as their sound engineer. In fact Ciara and Jon own and run the production company behind The Holiday Show, Trilogy Media, together.

So how does Ciara feel about UTV Ireland entering the Irish TV industry mix?

"It's interesting. Obviously it is going to affect us, but we are just hoping that people watch the shows and enjoy them," she says. "But at the same time, we are a production company, so we have spoken to UTV about other ideas."

"Competition is good. It keeps everyone on their toes," Ciara adds. "Irish producers need to concentrate a bit more on getting production values up and I think if there is competition that will happen."

cancer

Ciara and Jon met in 2003 on the set of Last One Standing, a quiz show that Jon was presenting on RTE and have been inseparable ever since.

"It was a slow burner, he chased me for a couple of months," Ciara smiles. "I remember actually my sister was sick at the time and I always tell Jon to thank her. She was really sick, she's fine now, but at the time she had cancer and was in St. Luke's hospital. It had been about two or three weeks of me putting him off and he rang me while I was in the hospital with her. She could hear him on the phone and was like, 'You should go out with him! He's got a really nice voice!' So I said yes and we went out."

Ciara puts herself and Jon's compatibility down to her being the 'real grown up' in the relationship, despite a ten year age gap between the pair. Jon proposed last year, but there are no wedding plans on the horizon just yet.

"I didn't think he was organised at all, but he actually had the ring about fourteen months because he was going to propose the year before, but my granddad actually died on St. Stephen's day so it wasn't the right day to propose," Ciara explains.

"So he ended up doing it the following year when I was pregnant. It was bad timing but it was good timing," she smiles. "He proposed in my parents' house."

"I think I probably will get married, but some of my friends got married last year and I have another friend getting married in August, so I think I'll wait for the calm and do it in about ten years," Ciara adds. "I'd just like a big party. We'll get around to it eventually."

Another goal of Ciara's is to front a property show at some point.

"We love property, even in our own personal lives we are always renovating something," she tells me. "So I'd love to do property programmes.

"I really get a kick out of it. Jon is always laughing at me because I'm always looking for the next house to buy and it is always the shitholes that I am looking at. I can't just buy a nice normal house and just move into it, it has to have rats running around!" Ciara laughs.

The Holiday Show is on Wednesdays at 8pm on TV3.

'We had a one or two per cent chance of having a baby naturally, so it was amazing'

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