Gráinne Seoige: “Staying silent shouldn’t be an option”

Gráinne Seoige Pic: Evan Doherty

We sat down with Gráinne Seoige this summer to mark 25 years of VIP Magazine.

We looked back at the last quarter of a century of her life and career as well, and what a life she has had.

Gráinne, let’s cast our mind back to 1999, when this magazine started out– where and what were you at? 

I was 25 years old, living in Dublin and I had a six-year-old boy who was in the Gaelscoil in Monkstown. I was a very busy working mum in the throes of it! TV3 was only a few months old, we launched in September 1998 to great fanfare, the first independent TV station in the history of the state. It was a huge news year too with the Kosovo War, with Bill Clinton having his troubles but also being heavily involved in Northern Ireland. We also had Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, the Euro was coming in and everyone was also really worried about Y2K (the year 2000), the way everybody is worried about AI now. It was a time of real change and inspection. It does remind me a little of all the instability and volatility we have now. I mean how are we still having wars? Why haven’t we learnt lessons?

In your opinion, why haven’t we? 

My sister Síle is very vocal on this and she has spoken very powerfully about how staying silent shouldn’t be an option. We need to get more vocal because all we can do is show our displeasure. I think politicians only listen to voices when there are enough of them and only if it means their power is in danger. But, I am very proud of the stand that Ireland has taken. I think Ireland has a connection with Palestine because we feel the generational pain of being colonised. But it’s not about being anti-Semitic or anti-Palestine, it’s simply about right and wrong and this is wrong. I really hope more international pressure continues to pile on.

Grainne Seoige

Trouble and strife are still ever present, sadly, but do you think there have been positive changes too?

Socially the changes in this country in the last 25 years have been huge. We are a lot more secular now; people are a lot less ashamed of what they suffered in silence; people are coming forward and saying this happened to me, I was abused, people in power could have protected me and didn’t. When you think of it the last Magdalene Laundry only shut down in the late 90s. Isn’t that shocking? But we have moved on in huge ways, look at the same-sex marriage referendum, the abortion referendum, divorce is now not the stigmatising thing it used to be. But, on the other side, the cancel culture is real and I don’t think it’s right that someone’s name can forever be destroyed because of one mistake. Because making mistakes is human.

Back two decades ago, Gráinne, what was the dream?

I wanted to be a newspaper journalist. I studied English and Sociology at UCG, then I went and did my Applied Communications in Irish and then suddenly an Irish language TV station arrived. I did the interview, I did the training course, then I’m on air and I’m 21 years old. Then, this new station (TV3) arrived, I did the interview and after, while still in the car park, I was offered the job. This may sound like a huge cliché but I was possibly living my dream at that stage! But if I’d ejected myself out of that and looked up and imagined what I wanted, Sky News would have been it. And then that did happen years later!

That is mad! 

It is mad! After Sky News I came back to Ireland, I presented Seoige, but then at the same time I started working with ITV in Britain, I made the jump over to ITV Breakfast, GMTV in the summer, which relaunched as Daybreak, I was Features Editor and I was travelling around the world. And then after meeting my husband Leon I moved to the other side of the world and lived in South Africa for five years before coming back here and being on national TV again.

Gráinne Seoige Pic: Evan Doherty

And being very busy on national TV, too. You’re never off! 

I’m having a lot of fun! But the biggest thing I learnt early in life was to be flexible and not to think anything is going to last forever because nothing lasts forever, especially in this industry, which is all about change.

Would you say being flexible has been the biggest change in you?

I think so. It’s almost like you are a pebble in the stream. We start off as a many-cornered thing but as life goes on you become a more smooth pebble because you’re meeting other people and getting different perspectives on life. Life polishes you, it takes the corners and hard edges off. I like to think it softens that judgemental bone that you are born with. It buffs away as you get older because you can see the shades of grey more. And I think that makes us an awful lot more compassionate. As you get older you build up the compassion quota inside of you and I think that’s one of the beauties of ageing.

Many people impact our lives but who has impacted you most? 

Professionally, I’ve met a lot of inspirational people and I take lessons from all of them. But, personally, my husband Leon. Meeting him and moving to the other side of the world and living in a different culture was a huge learning experience. In Europe, we have up until this point anyway, lived quite a safe life. Our life is sophisticated and we take a lot for granted; we take peace for granted. We can shut our doors and be fairly confident we’ll be okay but South Africa taught me a different way of living and it challenged me, away from where there may have been preconceived perceptions of me, to rebuild and reconstruct myself.

That reconstruction of ‘self ’ must have been an interesting, but refreshing process?

It was, but it was also really challenging because I had to find myself and that was hugely impactful. I’m also not as connected now to that old image of me as I might have been before. So, I take things now, like doing a stint on The Six O’Clock Show, as fun and as a bit of a gift, but I’m not defining myself by it anymore.

Gráinne Seoige

What did you love about life 25 years ago?

Going out and nobody taking a photo of you, or you not taking a photo of anyone! If I could bring anything back it would be taking phones away from people more, so that we could actually be with each other more.

Okay, Gráinne, here’s a weird one for you: where do you think you’ll be in 25 years?!

I dunno! I could be living back in South Africa. I could be in Galway, a doting granny with several grandkids! I could still be on TV. Who knows? I might do a podcast like my sister Síle who has taught me so much. She went through something big and her career completely changed and she carved out a completely different niche for herself. It’s not always easy to speak up, but Síle is okay with calling things out and I think that is very brave. I admire that.

Catch Gráinne with Síomha & Martin on Weekend Ireland AM on Virgin Media One every Saturday & Sunday from 9am-12pm and keep an eye later in the summer for Grá Ar An Trá Season 2.

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