SIBLINGS Amanda and Linda Brunker

 

This is the first in a series of articles in which siblings discuss their lives and relationships with one another.

Amanda Brunker (30) is a television presenter and former Miss Ireland. A regular on the Dublin social scene, the Sunday World journalist made tabloid headlines herself five years ago when her fling with married Northern Irish actor James Nesbitt became public knowledge. She took part in the Inside 252 reality TV show for charity earlier this year and on Tuesday October 5th begins presenting a new reality TV programme, The Dinner Party, on RTÉ2.

Her sister Linda Brunker (38) is an internationally renowned sculptor with works on display all over the world. She plans to move to Los Angeles, where much of her work is, early next year. Some of her works can be seen at: the Mullingar By-Pass overlooking Lough Owel; Laytown Strand, Co Meath; Scotch Quay, Waterford; the Radisson Hotel, Stillorgan, Dublin; the junction of Grand Canal and Barrow Streets, Dublin; and the Department of Education, Marlborough Street, Dublin.

Brought up in Glasnevin, the sisters currently live in Dublin, where Amanda recently bought her first house. The sisters lost their older brother Eddie to stomach cancer four years ago, an event which both say brought them closer together.


AMANDA

"Linda and I are like chalk and cheese. She is quiet and introverted while I would be the outgoing, loud one. Sometimes I think she is the sensible version of me. My earliest memories are of me sitting in between her and a boyfriend on the couch refusing to go to bed. I was quite a strong-minded child. I know this drove Linda demented.

"We were Protestants and went to Mount Temple School. There was no uniform so my mother would buy me these clothes from Arnotts and Clerys that were designed to last a lifetime but looked so depressing. Linda would always sneak me clothes and that's when we started becoming more friends than sisters, after she got married at 23 and moved to Ratoath, Co Meath.

"Later, I started modelling and entering competitions and then in 1991 I won the Miss Ireland contest. Linda was a great support at the time, shopping for clothes with me and going to some of the events. She has always been really generous when it comes to giving me a dig-out, which was quite often when I was younger.

"When the whole Jimmy Nesbitt thing broke I had to listen to a lot of stuff from family and friends. I was seeing someone at the time and it didn't wash with him, so I decided if he couldn't handle that, then it was probably for the best that we split up - he wasn't going to be able to weather any other storms with me. My family and Linda were there for me, even though it was hard for them, too.

"When our brother Eddie got sick in Birmingham, Linda and I both went over with our parents to look after him. The two of us used to do the nightshift, staying by his side from 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. It was so miserable sleeping on a blow-up bed in this damp house, holding his hand and mopping him down through the night. He died six weeks after he was diagnosed. The experience definitely brought us closer together.

"We do fight still. At the beginning of this year we weren't talking for some reason but one day she rang me and told me she was going to hospital. She had a fibroid growth attached to her womb which originally we thought was cancer. She had to have it removed, and while she was fine in the end it was a strange experience. We hadn't been talking and then it was like, 'oh no, am I going to lose another person here?'

"The pair of us are so different and a lot of the time we don't understand each other at all. She keeps things to herself and spends a lot of time alone in her studio because of her work. I like to be with people when I have a problem, get it all out, cry on people's shoulders and then move on.

"Linda is going off to LA now, the land of skinny lattes and yoga, which is right up her street; she has been living that life for years. But it would be my idea of hell. I am more a New York kind of girl. She is a skinny bird. I have curves all over. Our worlds are miles apart but I know I am going to miss her when she goes."


LINDA

"We shared a room as children and I remember Amanda was very untidy, which annoyed me. She was a tomboy, really into basketball and table tennis and that kind of thing. She went from being a tomboy to a beauty queen in a couple of years. I had always encouraged her to express herself and I think that the transformation was just her gaining more confidence in who she really was.

"When I left home we started to socialise more together and when she won Miss Ireland I really enjoyed helping her with everything. I think I actually enjoyed that year more than she did. The world she started to move in was full of celebrities but my work had already brought me into contact with famous people, just in a different way.

"After I left NCAD I started getting commissions from all sorts of clients, some of whom Amanda would often be out partying with.

"When Eddie died we got to know each other even better during what was obviously a tough time for the whole family. His illness made me look a bit closer at my own life and change things that needed to be changed.

"When I separated from my husband after 13 years Amanda was there for me. She had been through something similar herself so she understood what I was going through.

"Some uncomplimentary things have been written about Amanda over the years, and I would be very protective when that happened. I do feel quite motherly towards her but for the past five or six years, I haven't really worried about her because I think she has grown more sensible.

"It's great that she is getting into television: I always said she would be good at it. I hope she writes more in the future, too, maybe a novel.

"The thing I most admire about Amanda is that she always bounces back if she gets a knock. She just picks herself up and keeps going. I also love her ability to communicate with people and the fact that she is very honest.

"Sometimes she can be a little bit self-centred but that comes with being in the spotlight, I think.

"We talk to each other on the phone every few days and every couple of weeks we try to make sure we go out for dinner or away for the weekend. I know she will come and visit me in LA but I am going to miss her.

"People sometimes say 'how do you put up with her?' but I just laugh it off. She is a typical Gemini. She has this persona which most people don't get to see. I know who Amanda really is and I am as proud of her as any big sister could be."

  • Amanda and Linda Brunker talked to Róisín Ingle