“This is the first year since 2007 haven’t been on telly”: Mairead Ronan has no regrets about stepping down from Ireland’s Fittest Family

Mairead Ronan
Pic: Lili Forberg for VIP Magazine

Mairead Ronan is loving life. She has taken her foot off the pedal and is focusing on her three children, 15-year-old Dara, six-year-old Eliza and five-year-old Bonnie.

After leaving her Today FM radio show, she remained on telly with Ireland’s Fittest Family. Earlier this year she announced that she would not be returning after a decade with the programme.

VIP Magazine caught up with Mairead to find out how life is away from the grind!

Pic: Brian McEvoy

Hey Mairead! You must be a busy woman this time of year, with schools back! How have you found it?

I don’t know why I get nervous at the start of school years. This is the first time all three have been in school. So my baby Bonnie has gone into Junior Infants. So far so good. I was nervous about her. I was nervous about how she would take to it. But she’s been a duck to water! She said something so lovely the other day. There was a girl handing out leaflets outside the school for a local dance class and singing lessons. And Bonnie said, “I can already sing but I could do the dancing lessons.” I said, “Okay, but you already do Irish dancing lessons.” And she said, “I know but I want to do it all!” I just thought she is so surprising. This is the kid that I thought would never want to go to school at all! She’s such a homebird. And now she’s admitting she wants to do it all! Watch out world, little Bonnie is on her way!

That’s precious! 

This is the kid during the summer whose word was glue. “I want to glue myself to you.” And she did. I carried her a lot. When we would sit on the beach, she would sit on my lap, not on the blanket or on the seat beside me. I was quite worried about September and her going to school. But I do think it is the magic of seeing all the other kids. The teachers in Junior Infants are all seem like Disney Princesses. Their voice, their tone, everything is so welcoming. They are so welcoming and they just want to run in there. It’s been really lovely. But it’s been a bit of a surprise. It’s not what we’ve expected from her.

You stepped down from Ireland’s Fittest Family this year. But with all the behind-the-scenes bits coming out are you suffering from FOMO [Fear of missing out]?

I really, really amn’t! I had a fear I would have FOMO! I definitely had that fear. That was a totally different one. When I left in February of this year and said I wasn’t going to go back, a part of me thought when summer came around I’d be like, “Oh s**t, what have I done?” But I didn’t. Maybe it’s because the decision was totally mine I didn’t have any FOMO. In fact, it firmed up the fact it cemented my decision. Will I have FOMO when it goes out on TV? That’s a whole other thing. But up until this point, I’ve had none. And they’ve replaced me really, really well with Laura Fox.

Mairead Ronan
Pic: Lili Forberg for VIP Magazine

Be real with us, Mairead, did you leave so you could take part in Ireland’s Fittest Family?

No! Jesus no! I know exactly how hard it is. So many people watch the show and think they can do it. But when they take part in the show they’re like, “That is so much harder than it looks on TV”. It’s so much harder to do it. I’ve done The Ramp and I’ve done Hanging Tough. And I don’t think I’ll be back to do any other one!

With Laura and with Pamela Joyce stepping into your slot on Today FM, is it nice to usher in this new generation of presenters?

I had no hand in them getting the gigs they got. The only thing I did was leave the seat empty for them. They got the gigs because they’re both extremely talented and ambitious. It is really nice. I’ve had that job on Fittest Family for 10 years. I don’t think anyone should be in the same job for 10 years. Especially in TV. I’m not saying anyone in their 40s should be shunted off. [Laughs] But the same person doing the same job might not always be a good thing. I think it’ll add a new dynamic having a new presenter. It’ll still be the same show, a family will run up the ramp and win it. It’ll feel different, which I think is a good thing.

On the topic of the next generation, if you could go back to when you were just starting your career, what would you tell younger Mairead?

What would I tell myself? Be careful you don’t spread yourself too thin. I think in media when you’re young and when you’re female particularly you tend to be a busy fool. You do everything because you’re afraid if you don’t say yes you’ll miss another opportunity. I feel sometimes it was very hamster wheel-y. I was doing everything. Yes, you have to work hard in media when you’re a woman but you can always be a bit more selective. Calm down. Choose what you like, not the show you feel like you have to do. If you are good, it’ll all still be okay.

Pic: Brian McEvoy

There’s no turning off in media…

Everything is content. You need to know what people are talking about, what show just came out on Netflix, what books are out. Even on holidays you’re thinking about what comes next. Radio is relentless but it’s brilliant.

You’ve stepped away from radio but not from presenting, you have a podcast with your pal, Jenny Kelly. Are you loving it?
We’ve been friends since 2002, we met in radio. But that was Jenny and Mairead then and we’re Jenny and Mairead Now. We’re the same but different. It’s once a week as well. We both love, love, love doing it. We were seeing each other once a week anyway. Now felt like a good time to do it. I didn’t have time to do it when I was on radio and doing Fittest Family. Now I have the time and the want to do it. I always wanted to do a podcast but I didn’t have the brain space.

Dare we ask what you’re up to next?

What am I up to next? Steam cleaning my floors with the best thing I’ve ever bought. I don’t know what’s next for me work wise. It’s the podcast, it’s the kids. Who knows? I love working but I just couldn’t do all the work I was doing and be present with the kids. It just wasn’t happening. I would love to do more TV. I have been doing that since 2007, 16 years doing it. This is probably the first year since then I haven’t been on telly.

Mairead Ronan
Pic: Lili Forberg for VIP Magazine

You’re an ambassador for Uisce Éireann. What is it about water conservation that is so important to you?

I get lectures from kids, the younger ones, about water! Especially Eliza, she’s seven next week. For the last year she’s been on to everyone about water conservation. She guilts us and she’s right to! She is obsessed with taps and running water. You’ve never seen anyone brush their teeth the way she can. It’s military style. It was an easy one for me to get involved in. If I’m an adult and I don’t know about water conservation, I know a lot more people don’t know either.

Uisce Éireann renewed its appeal to the public to ‘Think Water Conservation’ as warm weather returns. This comes as over half of Irish households (54%) still admit to wasting water. Uisce Éireann is calling on households across the country to assess water usage habits throughout the year with a particular focus at home and in the garden and take practical steps to save water daily.

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