TV's Maura Derrane: 'John and I don't want to be a power couple'

It’s a big week for Maura Derrane. She’s in Cork to judge the ‘most stylish lady’ competition at Mallow Races. Her chat show, which she hosts with Daithi O Shea, has defied the dreaded ‘curse’ of the time slot – its popularity has continued to climb and RTE have said the show will be extended by half an hour.

This week the show will be broadcast live from the Aran islands. Today Maura will return home to Inis Mor and celebrate the fifth birthday of her son, Cal.

Unlike their British equivalents – Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid – Maura says there is no tension between herself and Daithi. “I’m not in competition with him. I would hate that. It’s almost like a marriage with him – I spend so much time with him.”

Maura’s actual marriage is to Fine Gael TD and the Government’s Special Envoy to the US John Deasy. Despite their respective high profiles, she says they baulked at being photographed and interviewed together.

“We never want to be a power couple,” she says. “I don’t want to be perceived as political. On the show we talk about different news stories and people having a hard time getting services for their kids, for instance. I can’t be backing up the Government just because Fine Gael are in power.”

They have adjusted to the long-distance relationship caused by his work in America, she says.

“It is what it is. It’s difficult if John is away and I’m on my own doing everything. I get straight in from work and Cal is there and I put him to bed. But loads of people are in the same boat.”

Like many Irish women today, Maura had her first child later in life: she was 43 in 2014 when she gave birth to Cal.

Like Miriam O’Callaghan, she did worry about being replaced while on maternity leave. “The reality is that I’m a contractor and if I didn’t go back, I would probably have been replaced. I never thought for one second of asking for extended maternity leave. To be honest I was glad to go back, it’s actually easier to go to work than to take care of a child all day.”

She says she doesn’t worry about allowing Cal too much screen time.

“I know the WHO [World Health Organisation] has said, ‘no screen time before two years old’, but is that realistic? Certainly not for me.”

She says she regrets that her father, who died in 2005, did not live to meet Cal. “He would have loved that, because he was surrounded all his life with women.”

Despite being one of the most personable presenters on Irish TV, Maura has dealt with her fair share of trolls over the years, and says that, surprisingly, they are mostly women.

“Last year I wore a cream skirt and a striped sweater. It started with one person on Facebook saying, ‘that’s rotten on her’, and moved on to, ‘I don’t like her personally.’ I couldn’t believe the cattiness and drama. I think women can be worse trolls than men.”

In a first for the show, Maura will be broadcasting this week live from her home island of Inis Mor, into the studio in Cork (where Daithi will be, as usual). “We’re going to do a bit of a walkabout with me and one of my friends from school.”

She will also confront the ghosts of ceilis past: “There will be a bit of reminiscing and we have some old video. My hair looks the wildlings from Game of Thrones. It’s going to be a fun week.”

‘The Today Show’ with Maura and Daithi is on RTE1, weekdays from 3.30pm

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