“I don’t take things personally anymore at all,” said the architect. “I think most of the stuff that is said on Twitter and all that is all meant in jest, it’s all in good spirits.
“There have been some very cutting things said about me and I’ve ‘liked’ it and I’ve ‘retweeted’ it. Why not? It’s just a bit of craic.”
He was speaking at the IFTA Gala Television awards on Thursday night where Room to Improve won for Best Factual.
Dermot said the Twitter reaction each week still “astounds” him.
“It astounds me every week,” he said. “If this programme was on in another European country it would be on a Thursday afternoon at half past three. The fact that it’s just engaged the nation it’s brilliant, I love it, it’s fantastic, it’s been a great journey.”
Dermot dedicated the award to Michael Stokes, the “tiny but tough” 15-year-old boy who took part in the show in 2016.
Dermot said Michael taught him a “really important lesson”.
“I suppose a lot of the time when I’m doing Room to Improve, you’re trying to teach other people something and you’ll always learn something from everybody,” he said. “You’re spending a year with these people, they’re a huge part of your life.
“I suppose the first time I met Michael all I could think about were his disabilities and what he couldn’t do. That lasted for about 10 minutes. Once you got to know him, he was so charismatic, he was infectious to know.
“He was just a piece of joy. You just forgot. I think what Michael showed me was: Forget about all the things you can’t do and just focus on the things you can and just do them really well. That was a really important lesson to learn in life.”
Michael died last month, just two weeks before his 16th birthday. He came to national prominence when the home of his foster parents, Ann and Barry Higgins, featured on the show.
Dermot said there are a few main things that the Irish homeowner asks him about these days.
They want “storage, light, and to [reconfigure] the kitchen space, where we spend all of our time living in”, said Dermot.
And when it comes to the national housing crisis, the architect said we need to build “denser” cities.
“If you look at cities like Barcelona or London, if you had even half the density of Barcelona we’d have everybody from Dublin, who needs to live in Dublin, who wants to live in Dublin, who works in Dublin, could live within the M50,” he said.
“Our cities are too spread out, we need to build them denser. We can all live together. Cities are brilliant places.”
However, when it comes to actually solving the housing shortage, Dermot said we need long-term plans to compensate for the short lives of our successive governments.
“The problem with building is that it’s a long-term thing and governments last for five years so we need a long-term plan, we need a
20- or 30-year plan for this country,” he said.
“It’s great to make plans but we need capital investment. We need people to invest in housing and show that we are going to build this housing scheme in five years, 10 years. That’s the problem, everything is quite cyclical.”
“With construction, everything is getting expensive now because there is a labour shortage out there. So what we need to do is make sure people are staying in the construction industry and it’s not boom, crash, boom, crash, boom, crash, which is what happens and that’s not good for it.”
The IFTA Gala Television awards will be broadcast on TG4 at 10.30pm tonight.