First Encounters: Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh and Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí

‘He knows my good parts, my bad parts’

Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí is a broadcaster who presents his magazine show, 'Rónán Beo@3', on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. He began his career on RTÉ Irish language TV and has presented programmes on RnaG and TG4. He also runs Cabaret Craiceáilte music nights. He grew up Donegal and lives there with his partner, Bernie, and daughter, Fionnuala

I met Bláthnaid on our first day working on Scaoil Amach an Bobailín. I'd spent the previous year working on Irish language news in Century radio as well as writing for Anois and a column for the Irish Press. I came to Dublin when I was 17 to do a communications course which I attended for a very short while.

Bláthnaid was brilliant, kind of bubbly, a headcase, good craic. We hit it off right away: we were roughly the same age, same backgrounds, both from Gaeltacht areas. Our parents would have been very idealistic about the language, brought us up with that belief in our language and culture. She had more experience of the city, was a wee bit more streetwise than me. We shared a few flats. At that age, 18, 19, 20, we had a lot of parties, a lot of freedom, we had a wage. It was a good time.

I joined RnaG in 1993, started a radio programme. We were breaking rules, it was a bit of madness and we got away with a lot – we did comedy sketches, had the freedom to do whatever programmes we wanted. We started An Ciorcal Craiceáilte at the same time. The show and Ciorcal were intertwined: we were running three-day music festivals, trying to create a similar Irish language social and entertainment scene to one in English. Now it’s An Cabaret Craiceáilte, it’s the same thing, a monthly gig plus a festival every year.


I think Irish language speakers in and out of the Gaeltacht are struggling, it’s getting harder. When people say they hate the Irish language, it hurts me – Irish is my entire being. We have to fight for language rights because we are under attack a lot of the time.

Once I met Ciarán, Bláthnaid’s husband, I knew they were made for each other; he’s one of the most chilled out, laidback men I’ve ever met, the perfect foil for her madness. Their wedding was brilliant, with loads of bands playing. I don’t see Bláthnaid that often anymore because I’ve been living in Donegal since 1997. For me she wouldn’t have changed at all, when we meet we’re on the same wavelength that we were back in those days in RTÉ.

We have the same craic, we’re always laughing, telling stories. It’s all talk talk talk – well, to be honest, that’s Bláthnaid, I’m more listen, listen, listen.

Bláthnaid was made for TV, you knew that from the moment you met her. She was a natural, excellent at interviewing. We are very comfortable. It’s always easy to be in her company, she’s always good craic, always loyal, always very good to me.

Rónán Mac Aodha Bhuí's Rónán san Afraic ar Thuras a Athar – a programme which retraces his father Fionntán Mac Aodha Bhuí's journeys in Africa – is currently showing on TG4

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh is a broadcaster whose career has included presenting TV shows on RTÉ and TG4. She will co-present her eighth St Patrick’s Day parade on RTÉ next month and begins a Raidió na Gaeltachta series tomorrow, helping Leaving Cert students prepare for their Irish exam. From Ráth Cairn, Co Meath, she lives in Monkstown with her husband, Ciarán, and four children

I started working in RTÉ in 1990, Rónán was there two or three days before me. We were both working as reporter/presenters on a magazine programme, Scaoil Amach an Bobailín. We were both 18, two wild Gaeltacht people, me from Ráth Cairn in Meath, he from the wilds of Gaoth Dobhair.

He’s the youngest of eight and he’ll kill me for saying this, he was spoilt rotten. Everyone was petting on him in the office. And he never minded himself, he was a typical country boy. But we got on. He’s changed with age – he’s healthy now, he’s eating organic food. He still goes out for a few pints but he looks so well. He’s a father, responsible.

Rónán worked in Century radio, he was a safer bet than I was. I had just done my Leaving Cert and answered an ad. Rónán wanted to break boundaries, to make Irish language TV as entertaining as English language TV for people our age.

I learnt an awful lot from him, the skill of getting a story, pinning it down, getting a second source, third source, holding onto your contributor, minding them. I learnt that from Rónán and I’ve never thanked him for that. He might have thought I was more confident but I felt I had to prove myself.

We were very young: we’d hit nightclubs on a Thursday night and we’d be out all night. We shared a flat together beside the chipper in Ranelagh. We had such fun. I was freelancing when Rónán got a job with Raidió na Gaeltachta in Dublin; he’d have me come in to do the traffic reports and the weather. We were mad. Rónán was very good as a radio broadcaster – that was, still is, his great talent. Rónán is Mr R na G, and so modest.

I speak Irish at home except with my husband, Ciarán. I gave a talk recently and people were taken aback at how honest I was about the difficulties you have when you marry an English speaker. The richness and the beauty of the language is not appreciated in Ireland.

I married at 25 and was constantly pregnant for 10 years, wasn’t available to go out – if you went out with Rónán you never got home, having a kebab at two in the morning was just normal. But Rónán was always in touch, we’d see each other when he came down to Dublin. And when we touch base, we’re right back there again. He knows how I think, knows my good parts, my bad parts, he’d back me – he’s like another brother. He’s one of my oldest friends and I love him very much.

Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh will present Gaeilge na hArdteiste, on Raidió na Gaeltachta from tomorrow, Sunday March 1st every night for a week from 8.30pm-9pm.