First Encounters: Clíona Ní Bhuachalla and Moya Doherty


Clíona Ní Bhuachalla was an RTÉ presenter for a decade and later helped set up Irish language soap ‘Ros na Rún’. In 2000, she established Icebox Films with director Charlie McCarthy. She has also worked on ‘The Clinic’ and two US TV dramas for Hallmark Pictures. She lives in Donnybrook, Dublin

I met Moya in 1988; I was in RTÉ, just out of college, presenting the young people’s programme Jo Maxi. I didn’t know Moya but I’d seen her cycling around, free as a bird. Then, when she was producing the Telethon, she invited me on the show. I liked her straight away – the Donegal accent, the dry wit, the look of and way about her. We just clicked.

Five years on and I’d had enough of presenting. I left RTÉ – whose only interest in me at the time was as a presenter – to try my hand at being a producer. I was in the Docker’s Pub on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay one night, and John McColgan was there – and that led to me flying off to London two days later to work with Moya on the big opening night of Riverdance in Hammersmith. The opening night was mad, chaotic, exciting, completely unforgettable; how they trusted me with that.

In 1995, I approached Moya and Joan Egan of Tyrone Productions and together we successfully pitched to TG4 a co-production of the TV pilot of Ros na Rún. So then I got to really work closely with her. I learnt producing on the job, and she really encouraged me, raised the bar. Then she commissioned me and director Charlie McCarthy to produce the Canadian Riverdancers documentary for CBC – and that led to Icebox Films.

Producers don’t often get to work with other producers so having Moya to share my concerns with is great.

What I’m amazed at with her is the amount of different types of projects she’s involved with – theatre, drama, dance, soap, radio, gaming, animation. She is so interested and has a huge belief in developing people’s creative potential, including her own. So many people have benefited from her artistic and business entrepreneurship. I’ve seen workshops of Heartbeat of Home and they took my breath away.

The thing people don’t know about her is that she’s very funny – she’s got a big bold laugh, is a really good storyteller.

Because of the demands of careers and family, our friendship now usually gets condensed into intense phone calls or long walks. Moya’s a great friend – loyal, inspiring. I always come away lighter after spending time with her. Weeks could go by without us talking – but no demands or apologies are needed between us.

Moya Doherty was a TV presenter and producer who founded and produced ‘Riverdance’ with her husband John McColgan in 1994. She is a director of TV production company Tyrone Productions, was a founding director of Today FM and is producer of music and dance shows worldwide. She lives in Howth, Co Dublin

I met Clíona in RTÉ in the late 1980s. She started working there straight from college, presenting on a young people’s programme. I’d just completed my producer course in RTÉ, it was before my children were born. The first time I set eyes on her I thought she had an extraordinary aura. There was just something about her. I remember walking into the room in RTÉ, spotting this very beautiful woman; it wasn’t just physical beauty, but that sense of inner soul in her.

I’d been five years in London with TV AM and was ready to come home; what encouraged me was RTÉ’s ad for its producer/director course. I was in the frozen state as a rookie producer, where you suddenly have to tell a story, have responsibility, make decisions. I just remember the pleasure of working with Clíona and of her intelligence, energy, creativity and commitment.

John asked Clíona to work on the opening night of Riverdance in Hammersmith in London – in 1995. I’d had my children in the intervening years, they’re 24 and 21 now.

Then Tyrone Productions and TG4 got Ros na Rún, the soap we’ve been doing for 18 or 19 years. Clíona came on board as script editor: her natural talent for editing and for steering and guiding writers really blossomed there.

I didn’t have much time to forge too many deep friendships in RTÉ; you tend to befriend within a project, make a connection, then move on to the next project. Then your children are small, you have all that going on. But Clíona and I were always hugely curious about and respectful of each other; the work of a producer can be lonely and it’s marvellous to have someone like her who’s a great sounding board for me.

When there’s a bond, there’s a bond, it’s inexplicable, it just happens. We’re there for each other but we’re non-demanding, we give each other space and that space never causes a separation. For quite a while we’d go to the same place in town for lunch, just call each other and say – usual table, usual place, one o’clock – and she’s always on time, I love that. I also love her sense of style but it’s not a girly friendship, I’ve never gone shopping with her.

She has a great ability to make people feel special. Always when I spend time with Clíona I come away enriched, challenged and entertained.

Heartbeat of Home opened with previews this week in Dublin and it will play at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre until October 12th