Eamonn Mallie Face to Face with Patrick Kielty: Family, politics and the movies

Eamonn Mallie and Patrick Kielty Credit: UTV

Patrick Kielty has told the incredible story of how a knock on the door revealed to his father his unknown family history and how his relatives were not who he thought they were.

The comedian and broadcaster was appearing on the new series of Eamonn Mallie: Face to Face with.

And in the latest edition of the UTV Podcast, journalist Mallie reveals how in discussions with Kielty, the Co Down man talked of how he wanted to talk about his father's history.

In the wide-ranging interview, Kielty talks of his family history, his father's killing, living around the world, the unlikely offer of an acting role and how his funniest moment involved an old neighbour - something that he strives to reach every day in his own comedy.

He also talks about political correctness in comedy and how attitudes and context change drastically over time. He says he wouldn't be able to get away today with a 'racy' joke he once told about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

"Good comedians hold mirrors up to what society is at the moment," he says.

"Billy Connolly has a great line, 'you can say whatever you want, as long as you smile after it'.

"You can smile and step back, I think if you don't step back then you are in trouble.

He recounts how he heard about his father's killing when he was 16 years old. Jack Kielty was killed in his hometown by loyalist paramilitaries in January 1988.

"It was terrible," he said.

"With the passing of time there are bits of it you look back on that seem realer than others."

He recounts how he remembers having a tape deck and hearing the radio report from Eamonn telling the story of his father's killing. Something Mallie says he did not know.

"Then you go.. 'this is real, this is real'," Kielty says.

"Lots of memories bleed into one and thankfully with the passing of time I think that is a really good thing.

"That idea of time heals... time doesn't necessarily heal but it lets you spend time doing something else. Which makes you realise that's a moment in your life. It will define you but it is not going to be everything you do.

"I've been lucky, I have had a very lucky life."

Asked if he forgave those behind his father's loyalist killers, he said: "You don't learn to forgive.

"Forgiveness is, at best it can be strange at worst it can be trite. You learn to live, I think if you want to live you learn to have to accept what happened and see it in the context of what happened.

"I am not in a position to forgive anyone. There are so many people out there who went through the same thing, I think it eats at them everyday.

"You are not only killing the person you are slowing killing the people that are left.

"I never wanted to do that. If my dad was here today, he would say 'you got to live, you got to go out, you got to live, laugh, there is not point half living."

Asked if he would shake the hand of his father's killers should they offer an apology, Kielty is thoughtful.

"It would be an interesting chat I think... I've it in me to go many places. I'm fairly good at reading people and seeing if they are genuine.

"I think there is always that balance of someone being sorry and feeling sorry for themselves."

He tells the incredible story of how his grandmother had left Dundrum for life in California with a GI who was stationed in Ballykinlar during the Second World War.

Jack Kielty had been born 'father unknown' as Patrick puts it and did not go with his mother to America leaving his grandfather to raise him.

"I don't know the full story. My granny left for a new life in America," he said, "but left my dad in Dundrum.

"He thought he was the young baby.. the mistake at the end of all these older siblings.. and it was years later a young America in a uniform landed back home and said 'I'm your brother'.

"My dad was living in blissful ignorance.. then one day a knock at the door."

Kielty said his dad was unaware of the American family and believed his grandfather was his dad and it was only when his American brother arrived in uniform on the door in Dundrum one day did the truth unfold.

"My dad tried to reconcile as best he could with his mother.. that was very difficult," he said.

"They then used to come over for holidays and we were always promised that we would have the America holiday one day and then we would go see them. And then he was killed.

"It was interesting that the kid who actually was born in America and joined the army had a long life. And the brother who stayed on Main Street, Dundrum and didn't [join the army] was killed."

Over the years, Kielty has become more vocal on political matters in Northern Ireland. He said he always believed there was a thought that "we weren't moving forward quick enough".

"That idea of you want a better future for people here," he said.

"I never thought in my life I would see things moving backward. In the moment when you see things actually not improving and you see who people do not understand what's going on and making decisions which effect this place. It makes me angry.

"There's comes a point you have to nail your colours to the mast. If we are going to improve this place, I think it is important to call out some of that nonsense.

"There is lots of stuff which isn't helping."

Now living in London, he says Northern Ireland is "irrelevant" to those living in the city.

Asked about a united Ireland, he says: "For me, it's about what does it look like.

"A united Ireland is a nice tidy phrase. It is a hugely complex thing in terms of how would things change, how would people be welcomed.

"Would they be welcomed? Would it be peaceful. We are going about this in my opinion arse about face. People are doing politics by slogans, but really until you see what something looks like. That is the heart of it.

"Emotionally I want people on this island to live in peace."

Asked if he is beginning to grow up, he laughs: "I think growing up is very much overrated I saw a T-shirt [saying] it's terrible being as old as these old people.

"That's essentially what it is you're essentially as old as you feel. You have to keep a curious mind.

"I'm trying to grow up, I think unsuccessfully."

After recently starring in the film Ballywalter, which he says came as an unlikely offer, he says he may have it in him to write a film.

"You don't chose a career in movies, movies chose a career in you."

You can watch the programme once again on catch up here.

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