Dermot O’Leary honoured to compere show for President

Higgins to be guest of honour at special evening in Royal Albert Hall

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 01:00

For O’Leary, the invitation “is serendipity at work because when I was 15, or 16 there was no show that I loved more than Bringing it all Back Home .

“I had it taped on video and used to watch it all the time.”

Favourite musicians
However, he had not known King was its creator: “We had a cup of coffee that lasted a couple of hours,” he said, before effortlessly listing favourite musicians from Christy Moore to Luka Bloom to Paul Brady.

Culture, he said, helped to define the Irish in Britain, in the same way that it did for Afro-Caribbeans and other immigrants.

“We were more Irish than the Irish,” he went on.

He cheers for England in the cricket, “but for everything else I cheer for Ireland”.

Too often in the past, says King, the contribution to Irish culture by the Irish born in Britain has not been fully recognised, noting the extraordinary contributions of people such as Andy Irvine, who will perform on the night.

“He will perform My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland . He was born in London, but you can feel his love for Irish music in everything that he does,” said King, who said the identities of other guests cannot be revealed until the day.

Imelda May, the singer born in Dublin’s Liberties, will sing Kentish Town Waltz , which is about her early years living in London.

“A poignant ballad, it is about being Irish in England,” King commented.

Cultural evening

Three years ago Olivia O’Leary was one of the stars of the cultural evening hosted by the British government in the Convention Centre Dublin during the queen’s visit, where she joked “that we were all a little worried about the curtsey”.

Back then, O’Leary was “writing in the moment” with just 48 hours notice.

For now, her contribution is a work in a progress.

“If you were to sum up what I’m talking about, it will be about what we could learn from the Brits, and what they might learn from us,” she said.

Singer-songwriter Paul Brady will remember an earlier, far from happy time in relations between the Irish and British, when he sings Nothing But The Same Old Story , his recollection of arriving in Britain at 19.

Living under suspicion/ Putting up with the hatred and fear in their eyes/You can see that you’re nothing but a murderer/In their eyes, we’re nothing but a bunch of murderers, ” the lyrics recall.

For Dermot O’Leary, the 2007 Ireland versus England rugby match in Croke Park changed everything when God Save The Queen was heard with “utter respect.

“That, for me, was when everything changed, that was the moment when we had put all this behind us.”