James McClean opened up about his autism diagnosis on The Late Late Show with new presenter Patrick Kielty and said he is “proud” to be on the spectrum.
Kielty, 52, succeeds presenter Ryan Tubridy as the fourth regular host of the show and told viewers “there’s no way I ever thought that I’d be standing here this evening” during his first show at the helm.
Hector O hEochagain, Laurita Blewitt and Tommy Tiernan were the first celebrities to appear on the show, followed by guests including comedy duo The 2 Johnnies and Wrexham footballer McClean, 34.
McClean spoke about his six-year-old daughter who has autism and said that his life had “completely changed for the better” since her birth.
He also mentioned that she was the reason he got tested himself and said: “I was hesitant for a while about going and getting tested and getting a diagnosis because obviously, the job I do, it would just be ammunition to give people.
“But I just thought, you know what, I’m doing this for my daughter. If it helps me get a better understanding of her.
“I went and done the test and it came back that I’m also on the spectrum and I’m proud of it.”
The Derry man also talked of the abuse he received from the crowds at football games saying he had to get on with his job. He also talked of threats that were made against his children.
He said: "You fight fire with fire but it becomes a different kettle of fish when you bring my children into it."
Wife Erin who was in the audience also explained how she had to talk to their children about what they may hear when they go to see their dad play football.
McClean also talked about his stance on not wearing the poppy on his football shirt saying he knew he would be criticised.
"There are two sides to it, but over there there is an arrogance and an ignorance. They are taught one side of history. They speak about the IRA are terrorists.. we look at the British Army as terrorists as to what they have done to our city.
"There is an arrogance and a superiority. That is where there is frustration for me."
He said he just asked for his beliefs to be respected: "I don't force mine on them."
On getting his 100th cap for Ireland, he said it had not sunk in yet the magnitude of that achievement.
"I don't really reflect on things there and then, I am always striving for what is next," he added.
"I think when things settle it will truly sink in."
In his opening monologue for the show, Kielty joked about the crisis rocking Ireland’s national broadcaster over the summer.
The presenter made multiple close-to-the-bone references about the controversies.
Kielty started the show by saying: “Thank you so, so much folks. What a lovely welcome.”
He added: “By the way, in case you hadn’t noticed, folks, everything in here tonight is new.
“We’ve got a new opening. We’ve got a new logo and we’ve got a brand new house band for you folks, give it up for Grant Thornton And The Flip Flops…”
Grant Thornton is the auditor that investigated the misreported RTE payment scandal.
One of the controversial payments uncovered were 200 pairs of flip flops bought by the commercial department for a summer party for clients.
Kielty added: “We also have a shiny new set. What do we think of this? There we go. No expense spared. Or if you’re the host, no expenses spared.
“Taxi? But we wanted to make a special effort for you tonight folks, because apparently lots of folks are tuning in this evening which is really very exciting.
“Based on the latest figures for TV licence payments. We’re expecting an audience of up to 27 people tuning in tonight.
“Just to put that into perspective, that’s almost double the amount of people who saw Toy Show The Musical.”
Toy Show The Musical is a musical based on The Late Late Toy Show.
Kielty went on: “This is where the RTE executives in the green room realise they might have booked the wrong pony.”
RTE has been reeling since revelations earlier in the summer that it misreported the salary paid to former star presenter Tubridy between 2017 and 2022.
The furore around the payments to Tubridy became a wider crisis for the national broadcaster amid further disclosures about RTE’s internal financial, accounting and governance practices and its expenditure on corporate hospitality for advertising clients.
RTE’s spending through a so-called barter account has come in for intense scrutiny since it emerged that the broadcaster paid 150,000 euro to Tubridy through one such account, as part of an undisclosed commercial arrangement with a sponsor.
RTE had also faced criticism for using barter transactions to spend hundreds of thousands of euro entertaining commercial clients, including on a trip to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Tubridy stood down as The Late Late Show host earlier this year, but was continuing to present his weekday show on RTE Radio One when the controversy over incorrectly disclosed payments erupted in the summer.
At that point, negotiations over a new radio contract for Tubridy were halted and he was taken off air amid the crisis that engulfed the organisation.
Director general Kevin Bakhurst later re-entered negotiations with a view to securing Tubridy’s return to the radio airwaves on a new contract, but those talks broke down in August after Mr Bakhurst claimed the presenter was not taking sufficient responsibility for his role in the payments controversy.
Pushing the jokes to one side, Kielty also spoke about his grandfather and how he was the reason behind him watching The Late Late Show with his brothers when he was growing up.
He said: “I just wanted to say to you how much this means to me tonight…
“His (granddad’s) journey is the reason why myself and my brothers grew up watching this show on a Friday night and counted down with my mum and dad.
“I’m proud to say that the Kieltys are still watching this show from County Down tonight. Hello mum.
“And some Kieltys are also tuning in here tonight in Dublin… And there’s two other Kielty brothers also watching tonight in London, way past their bedtime, who will now be able to say that their dad was lucky enough to host this show.
“Like so many of you watching this show tonight, my journey has had the odd bump in the road but it’s funny how things work out.
“There’s no way I ever thought that I’d be standing here this evening but I am so so happy I am. Thanks for joining me and it truly is an honour of a lifetime to be able to say welcome to The Late Late Show.”
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