This Much I Know: Broadcaster, Mary Kennedy

This Much I Know: Broadcaster, Mary Kennedy

I was delighted to get to week nine of RTÉ’s Dancing with the Stars.

I enjoyed every single moment of it. I was certainly emotional when I was eliminated, but my new partner Tom was a great support throughout.

This Much I Know: Broadcaster, Mary Kennedy

The training was demanding — seven hours a day, from 8am to 3pm — but I’m pretty fit as I’ve been a keen runner all my life.

As I was a painfully shy child, it may seem odd that I have become so well known as a broadcaster.

I was the eldest child and very serious. I always wanted to be a teacher. So I went to UCD and studied Irish and French, both of which I taught. Looking for extra work, I applied to an RTÉ ad for part-time continuity announcers, and it went from there.

I guess presenting Eurovision — 25 years ago — was my ‘big break’. I auditioned for it three times until I finally got the gig. So I certainly believe in never giving up.

The best advice I ever got was from Gay Byrne, when I was auditioning for it, the year I finally got it. He said “best of luck and just… be yourself”.

I am still shy but I never let that stop me doing things. And I still get nervous but I’d never use that as an excuse not to try something new. I was terrified doing Dancing with the Stars but my dance partner John Nolan kept reminding me to get out of my head and into my feet.

Mary Kennedy and her partner John Nolan
Mary Kennedy and her partner John Nolan

The biggest challenge in my life so far is the fact that my marriage broke down. We have four wonderful, now grown up, children but I found it hard to forgive myself. And I had an awful fear of people pitying me and feeling sorry for me. Counselling helped me learn how to show vulnerability, which is what saved me in the end. I now find counselling a great resource in helping me to explore and deal with other facets of my personality and of life itself.

The most important trait for any reporter is to actually be interested in other people. I cannot be put in a room with someone without wanting to know who they are, where they’re from.

I’ve just retired from presenting RTÉ’s Nationwide, which of course is a job I adored, so life is going to be very different from now on. But I didn’t want to be treated any differently from others who reach retirement age. Thanks to Nationwide, it feels like I’ve visited everywhere in the country and it was heartening to see the community spirit out there.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet as I’ve been so busy with Dancing with the Stars, but in the near future I look forward to spending more time with my family and to escaping to the Aran Islands where my sister lives. I’m looking forward to doing more writing too, I wrote five books whilst working full time.

Running is good for my head. I love the discipline of it and have completed several marathons. I do a 5k loop most days, from my front door. I never listen to music, I prefer to be present to myself, to the air I breathe, and to the sounds of nature.

I have a practising faith and a firm belief in right and wrong. I find it comforting. I’m hopeful and optimistic that there is some kind of after life. I live my life with that in mind.

If I could be reborn for a day I’d be a cat. I love their serenity and independence and how they always manage to find that one shaft of sunlight.

My idea of misery is freezing grey skies. I love the heat.

The trait I most value in others is a sense of humour.

The thing that irritates me most about others is bad manners.

So far, life has taught me that the only thing that really matters are people and the relationships that we form with others. That’s where happiness lies.

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