Dáithí tells it like it is
By Michelle Newman
Since making a move from a behind the scenes continuity announcer on TG4, to on screen presenter in the early noughties, Dáithí Ó Sé has firmly established himself as a household name on Irish television.
Yet despite his success, the Kerry-born father of one knows that the media industry doesn’t always offer a lot of security and therefore, making hay while the sun shines, is part of the territory.
“You have to take it [work], you can’t take anything for granted,” Dáithí explains.
“There’s no security at all in it and that kind of drives you on. So when you’ve that in the back of your mind, you take on as many gigs as you can.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dáithí says that having confidence in your ability and allowing yourself to say no to an opportunity, is equally important.
“You have to draw a fine line where you go, ‘Okay I can’t be gone all the time,’ you have to believe in yourself and what you’re worth to say, ‘They won’t get rid of me if I don’t do x, y and z’ and they will come back.”
He laughs and says, “I left a full time job in TG4 to pursue the one I’m doing at the moment, so I’ve only myself to blame if anything goes wrong. But you can’t focus on that, you just don’t, you get on with it. I suppose you have to strike while the iron Is hot but you also have to strike a balance.”
For now though Dáithí says he is thoroughly enjoying working on Today on RTÉ One with his co-presenter Maura Derrane.
The lifestyle show, which is now in its sixth year, has really honed in on its audience and what they want to see every afternoon.
“It’s the first time in a long time that RTÉ has had a show on for so long because it does take three, maybe even four years to actually get your footing and your head around a show,” he says.
Even though he doesn’t see himself as having a particular presenting style, Dáithí says first and foremost he is in interested in people and everything else grows from there.
“To be honest I just go in and I start talking. You can call it a style, you can call it a way, I don’t know what I’d call it really. I try to get the best out of people,” he says.
“I’m a nosy person by nature so I want to know, ‘What makes this person tick’ and that’s my main thing. I always like [to bring] a lighter element to things as well, I like having a bit of fun. I think where we’re positioned in the scheduled there’s probably an hour and 20 minutes of news after us, so I think it’s always good to keep our finger on the light pulse as well.”
Dáithí does try to bring a certain sensitivity when speaking to guests whose stories are particularly sad or distressing. He calls this ‘human nature’, but it could also be seen as his genuine respect for others and their feelings.
“You say, ‘Okay this is happening here and we need to kind of protect this person.’ You have to remember no matter say if you’re chatting to someone on the phone or if someone is readying your piece in a magazine, it’s as much about the person who’ll make a connection reading it as it is about the person who is telling you the story,” Dáithí says.
“I think we’re in a privileged position and we need to be very, very careful the way we approach those stories because there are real lives behind them.”
Folk singer Don Stiffe’s background was one of such stories which has stayed with Dáithí in recent times, along with the knock-on effect they have to potentially help a viewer watching at home.
“Don was adopted when he was a baby and he went on a search to find his mum and ended up meeting Philomena Lee, who we all know from Philomena the movie. He tracked down his mother but she had passed away 18 months before it.
So that’s kind of a sad story. Those stories always kind of get me and seem to get people at home as well. For anyone watching it who would be in the same situation, Don might have inspired people to go out and look for their mum and brothers as well, so there’s two sides to that coin.”
Working in Cork and living in Galway, means Dáithí is often away from home for a number of days a week.
He says this is more difficult than it used now that he and his wife Rita have a little boy, Michael Óg, as ‘family has to always come first.’
“It’s all about family time, everything else comes second. I’m at a lucky stage now when I can go home and close the door and the young fella, it’s just me and him and that’s where I’m happiest,” he says adding that working dads also find it difficult to leave home each day.
“Especially when he tells you he doesn’t want you to go to work, he wants you to stay playing for the day and you’re thinking, ’Wouldn’t I love to.’ It’s very hard to walk out the door every morning. You could call it guilt if you want but you have to say, ‘Okay we have to pay the mortgage as well,’ so you have to kind of get on with it.
But definitely, there’s a feeling inside you when you’re leaving every morning. I’d love to be hanging around with him, but that’s just not the way life is.”
Dáithí goes on to say that life is never easy and that as a rule we should be less quick to judge other people’s decisions and what works for their family.
“You can get caught up in listening to different people. What happens inside in my house in no one else’s business and what happens in someone else’s house is none of mine. Everything is hard and everyone is there with their own flag flying it in the air. Rita and I look at each other and say, ‘Is this working for us?’ Yes it is, ‘Is everyone healthy and happy?’ Yes. My thinking is what everyone else thinks of me is none of my business and it’s as simple as that.”
At the end of the summer Dáithí will be back hosting the Rose of Tralee, for his ninth year running. While his hosting duties are ‘great fun’ his primary goal on the night is to make sure the Roses enjoy their moment in the spotlight. He says he feels a certain responsibility to them in this respect.
“My main job is that the Roses feel secure and safe on stage and also that they come off the stage ‘Saying, that was great fun’,” Dáithí says.
“It’s always great to see the Roses up on stage shining like you hope they’re going to shine and once they’re happy, I’m happy as well.”
Watch Today with Maura and Dáithí weekdays at 3.30pm on RTÉ One
Rose of Tralee Images: Photographer Domnick Walsh