Meet Emer O’Neill, the new presenter of RTÉ’s Today show

EMER O’Neill says she’s a lucky woman. The new co-host of RTÉ’s Today show was distraught before making her first appearance on the live show in May. She was replacing one of the many guest presenters during Sinead Kennedy’s maternity leave.

O’Neill couldn’t sleep or eat, but presenter Dáithí Ó Sé entered her dressing room and all her nerves were gone. “I think if I had had my first experience performing live with someone else it could have been very different.

“Whatever you say, it’s live on TV and you can be wary of ‘don’t fool yourself don’t curse don’t say the wrong thing’. But Dáithí was so relaxed and took all the fear away that I was going to ruin everything.

She was left speechless after learning she had secured the job to co-host the show with Ó Sé on Mondays and Tuesdays for the next several months as Kennedy continues her maternity leave.

It’s been a whirlwind of two years for O’Neill, who battled postpartum depression after her second baby, worked at RTÉ’s Home School Hub as a physical education teacher in Ireland, has become a activist denouncing racism in this country and wrote a children’s book, which was published yesterday.

Her time on Home School Hub was amazing, says O’Neill. She received great feedback from her appearances on the show and loved watching parents and their kids exercise on Instagram.

“My heart was just full. You saw me on TV and you saw these little kids having to do their squats and their jumping jacks. I have had quite a few parents of biracial children who thank me because it was huge for their children to see someone who looked like them on their screens.

Racial diversity is very important to O’Neill. His daughter Sunny Rae was only one month old when she spoke at the Black Lives Matter rally in her hometown of Bray, following the death of George Floyd in May 2020.

Expressing himself has not been easy for O’Neill. “I was 35 years old before I opened my mouth to my experiences with racism and there’s a reason for that – I was scared. I didn’t have a great track record in terms of responses to talk about it. I never wanted to make a big deal out of things or draw more attention to myself, that I was different.

She believes having children caused this change. What she could accept for herself, she wouldn’t accept for them.

“Thinking that my son or daughter would go through some of the things that I have been through in my life made me physically sick and I started to hear things coming out of my son’s mouth that remind me so much of when I was child. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and the thought of this happening to my own parents is heartbreaking. “

That’s why she wrote her book, The Same But Different.

“It’s me in the book and I’m talking about the way other kids make fun of my hair or my skin, and I feel different, and wish I could be like everyone else.

“The reason behind the book is that I want other kids to know that they are not alone if they feel this way. It is also a book for people and children who are not from an ethnic minority because I think it is very important to see the world from different angles. Hope this starts some really important conversations at home and in the classroom.

O’Neill and her family suffered horrific harassment when she began speaking out against racism. Their house was boosted, O’Neill’s name tagged around Bray, acid was thrown on his neighbor’s car in a mistaken identity case.

“I was very scared for my children and my husband. I am used to dealing with discrimination and feeling ostracized, but my husband has not yet experienced these things and neither have my children. The idea of ​​being so close to home was really, really hard for me.

However, she says the support outweighed the negative comments and harassment 100%.

“There were days when I just wanted to snuggle under the duvet and put it away, but I had so many people behind me that it gave me strength.”

O’Neill comes from a single parent family. She was born in 1985 and her mother was from Ballindaggan in County Wexford and her father was from Nigeria. Her parents had met when her mother was working abroad as a nurse. Her father passed away just before O’Neill graduated from college in the United States.

Her mother, Phyl, had considered adopting her child, worried about the consequences of raising a mixed race baby in 1980s Ireland.

“It’s always been just my mom and me, and she taught me that whatever life you want, you have to create it. I always wanted to make her proud because she sacrificed everything for me. We are a team. This motivation and the belief that she has had in me all these years has been tremendous. “

A former basketball player who represented her country, O’Neill says she has long tried to break into the TV and media scene, but it hasn’t worked for her so far.

“I am plus size. I was put in a box because of that and then I was put in a smaller box because I was a woman of color so there weren’t a lot of opportunities available to me. me, but I think breaking into Home School Hub was definitely the first thing that put me on the map, so I’ve just run around with it ever since. I try to do my best with the opportunities given to me so that I can pave the way for other boys and girls to feel that they can have a dream and believe that they can accomplish something. I learned early on that hard work, dedication and self-confidence pay off. “

When she was younger, O’Neill had issues with her body, “how I looked and my skin, all that, all about me, to be honest.”

“I have always been taller and taller than everyone around me. I was almost 6 feet in first year. I wouldn’t want to wear heels because I don’t want to be too tall, I find myself hunched over to fit in with the girls around me.

“I would still have trouble with my body size sometimes, so I have to tap into the appreciation of what my body can do, as opposed to how it looks.”

The second time, motherhood was very different from her first experience. “During my first pregnancy, I was a single parent and I lived at home in my mother’s house, and I was very worried about the future.

Along with Sunny Rae, O’Neill had her full pregnancy and childbirth during the pandemic. She says looking back makes her feel angry.

“My husband was there for 40 minutes after giving birth, right at the end when she came. Other than that, I did everything myself. It was hard but I was surrounded by a bunch of other women who did the same.

“My husband didn’t see Sunny Rae again until she was one week old. I couldn’t see my son during the week. It was very difficult mentally. There were times when I would sit on the bed crying. You couldn’t even cry in peace.

“You would go into the bathroom and try to cry and there were people in there too. When I got home it was much better. My family was great and I had the support of my husband.

She met Sean when her son was only a few weeks old. She had returned to Ireland in April 2014 and Ky was born in June.

“I had gone through the entire pregnancy on my own and came back to Ireland to start my life over.”

She was out with friends when she met Sean. He called the next day to ask him to go out with Ky for lunch.

“Since that day, we have never left each other. We’ve been together for seven years, he’s been there for me and Ky since day one. He grew up in a family where his parents welcomed or adopted more than 60 children during his lifetime. Family therefore has a different meaning for him than other people. it doesn’t have to be blood. It is honestly by the grace of God that we have been put on each other’s path.

‘Today’ returns for its 10th season on RTÉ One Monday at 3:30 p.m.

Source link

About Norman Griggs

Check Also

Remembering Lois Greene, “woman warrior” who fought racial injustice and raised a multiracial family

Lois Greene. Courtesy of the Greene family Lois Amy Chase Greene passed away peacefully on …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.