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'Sibling rivalry? No, me and my sister are too close'

After gold medallist Laura Trott came out in defence of her sister who was accused of jealousy at her success, Stephanie Bell speaks to three local personalities and their siblings about their relationships

Published 03/09/2016

Tight-knit: presenter Kerry McLean has a sister the same age
Tight-knit: presenter Kerry McLean has a sister the same age

Sibling rivalry happens in the happiest of households, although by adulthood most of us will have grown out of it. But is it any different for those who grow up with a brother or sister who becomes famous? Do they continue into adulthood feeling overshadowed by a sibling being in the spotlight - or do they happily bask in their success?

Olympic cycling champion Laura Trott spoke up for her sister Emma recently over allegations her sibling was jealous of her cycling success.

Laura (24), who became the UK's most successful female Olympian with four gold medals in Rio, defended Emma after she came under fire following an interview on the Good Morning Britain breakfast TV show.

Emma (26) was accused by viewers of being "underwhelmed" by her sister's fourth gold medal and was also said to have appeared "bitter" and "jealous" during the interview.

Personal trainer Emma revealed she did not watch her sister win her golds. Speaking from New Zealand, she said: "I was working, I'm self-employed. If I don't work, then I don't make money."

And she went on: "Laura's not worked any harder than anybody else has, everyone works hard to get to the level those 24 riders were at, but it was the hours of sacrifice, not just that we made from not going to school discos or going out with friends or the sacrifices that mum and dad made for us."

"The amount of times that Laura kicked up a fuss on hills because dad and I were dropping her, and she said, 'if you don't slow down I'm going to ring mum, she can come and pick me up'."

However, Laura was swift to defend Emma, saying she was her "idol" who had supported her through "thick and thin".

Of course, they aren't the only famous family who have made headlines for similar reasons.

Jessica Simpson and her sister Ashlee are the best of friends now, but it wasn't always sweetness and light between the celeb sisters.

Ashlee came into the music scene four years after her older sister and wrote Shadow, a song that hinted at years of feeling jealousy and neglect as her sister rose to fame. Since then, though, the shared experiences of coping with fame appear to have brought the sisters back together.

Brothers and former Oasis bandmates Liam and Noel Gallagher's feud made headlines in 1994.

After Liam altered the lyrics of one of Noel's songs, the brothers fought and the band split up. Liam eventually dropped a lawsuit against his brother for causing the break-up, but sadly the brothers still keep their distance.

So, how do the siblings of our own celebrities cope? We asked three well-known personalities and their siblings about their relationship and how they deal with being in the public eye.

'I still find it really odd when people come up to her'

BBC Radio Ulster presenter Kerry McLean (41) is married to DJ Ralph McLean and has three children: Dan (7) Tara (9) and baby Eve, who is nine months. Kerry has one sister Seanagh Turner (41), a probation officer and mum to Sean (12). Seanagh lives close to Kerry in Ballymoney.

Kerry says:

"We've always been very close, although we were always into different things. Seanagh lives five minutes from me now and we see each other every day. I would say she is my best friend.

"I spent about 10 years living and working overseas with the BBC and since I came home we've become even closer as sisters. I think she is proud of me and I am very proud of her. In my job I get to play music and chat and it is a lot of fun, whereas Seanagh works as a probation officer and what she does really affects peoples' lives and makes a difference and I couldn't do her job.

"I think she finds it very funny if we are out and about together and people come up and ask me if I am Kerry McLean.

"She keeps me going about that. Our kids are very close in age and have been brought up together and it has made us all very, very close. I think as children everyone has that thing where they are jostling for their place in the family, but as adults we are very lucky to have each other and enjoy being so close."

Seanagh says:

"I remember when we were really small, mum insisted on dressing us in the same outfits. I would have been about 10 and Kerry was eight and I hated it because I really wanted to be the big sister.

"It was worse for Kerry because she got them twice - I only had to wear them once, but she got mine when I grew out of them.

"As we got older I got over the fact that I was a whole two years older than her.

"When Kerry was working away in her 20s I missed her dreadfully and when she came back home and before she met Ralph she moved into my flat with me in Belfast and that was a wonderful time for me.

"It was the first time that we got to spend 24 hours together as adults and it was brilliant. I know it sounds clichéd, but Kerry really is my best friend.

"I would be a lot quieter than Kerry and I wouldn't find social situations as easy as she would.

"Kerry really is the person you hear on the radio, she is good craic to be around.

"When we are out and people come over to speak to her I still find it really surprising. I think I forget that she is well-known, as to me she is just Kerry.

"I couldn't do the job she does. I don't know how she sits at a microphone and speaks, knowing thousands of people are listening. I would die if I had to do that.

"But it really suits Kerry's personality and I am very proud of her. I do have people say to me 'are you Kerry McLean's sister?' and that does take me by surprise. Kerry is very bubbly but also very caring."

'Warren helped form an elephant polo team ... and he was brilliant'

Graham Little (38) has presented sport on Sky and UTV for a number of years and now runs his own TV company, NPE Media. Graham grew up in Fermanagh, the eldest of four children. His brother Andrew (26) is a professional footballer, his sister Ruth (32) is commercial manager at Mount Stewart and his brother Warren (36) is a lawyer in London. Graham now lives in Bangor with his wife Claire (39) and their two children Christian (7) and Reuben (5). He and brother Warren talk about their relationship growing up and the bond they now enjoy as adults.

Graham says:

"Warren and I were closest in age. It is funny now for me, as my two boys have the exact same age gap as Warren and I, and I can see them doing exactly what we would have done. One minute they are fighting like cats and dogs and the next they are best friends, and if one of them isn't there the other is lost without him.

"Warren and I have become really good mates and even though he lives in London and we don't see each other as often as we would like, we are still very close.

"I had this dream a few years ago to become a world champion in any sport and Warren helped me put an Ireland team together for elephant polo and strangely we discovered that he was brilliant at elephant polo. He scored every single goal.

"I was into my extreme sport and Andrew was a footballer and my sister is an Irish champion runner and it was great that Warren had his chance to find a sport he was brilliant at. I was really proud of him.

"I think when I was on UTV at first, he would have been known as my brother but Warren writes a column for the Impartial Reporter and in Fermanagh I would be known as Warren's brother.

"We are all very busy with our own lives and to be honest the TV thing never really got discussed. It was never a big deal and I'm really proud of Warren and what he is achieving, he is a very successful lawyer in London."

'Edel was my second mum and babysat me, she has always been my biggest supporter'

West End star and singer/songwriter Conleth Kane (32) is from Lurgan but now lives and works in London. Conleth has a younger sister Dearbhla (28), a brother Michael (40) and older sister Edel (43). He says he and Edel have always shared a special bond because of the age difference.

Conleth says:

"Edel was like my second mum and always babysat me. I was always with her when I was growing up. I remember her going to work in the Isle of Man when she was 17 and it was such a traumatic experience for me, that to this day I remember what I was wearing when I waved her off and I was only six years old.

"When I released my first single last Christmas, Edel was sitting in the hairdressers when it came on Cool FM and she just screamed and stood up and told the whole salon 'that's my little brother on the radio'.

"She has always been my biggest supporter. I've brought out two more songs this year to critical acclaim and they have been played in all the major clubs in London and on radio and I am thrilled. I am concentrating on my songwriting this year and I am really enjoying it, but no matter what I do I believe that my sister does a much better job than I do. She is a cancer nurse in the City Hospital in Belfast and is helping sick people and to me that is the superior job.

"I'm in awe of her and that's not to underestimate all that I do, but while performing and music brings me joy, what Edel does makes a difference to peoples' lives. Putting myself out there to perform and going public about being gay wasn't easy, but my family have always been really supportive.

"Edel would be the one out putting up posters and do things to help promote me and it's things like that I will never forget."

Edel (43) lives in Lurgan and is married to Colin (48) an accountant. They have three children Maria (24), Caleb (4) and Jonah (2) and one granddaughter Aoibh (3).

Edel says:

"There are 11 years between me and Conleth and when he was born he was like my baby doll.

"No matter where I went he came with me and in his teens I took him to concerts and encouraged him to be who he wanted to be.

"He confided a lot in me and I remember when he was 15 he told me he was gay. I think I knew from when he was about two or three years of age that he was very different.

"He never really fitted in with the rest of the boys and he was always performing and singing.

"I remember when he was barely able to talk he would lift the phone in the hall and sing Stevie Wonder's 'Hello, Is It Me You Are Looking For'. It was the first song he learnt off by heart and to this day, when I hear it, no matter where I am, I think of Conleth.

"I am so glad that he took the initiative and followed his dreams. Back then, to say you wanted to be an actor or singer was frowned upon and people would have asked 'Well what you are really going to do?' so the fact Conleth did it makes me so proud.

"I still can't believe that the wee boy who sat on my knee and who I spoon fed has become such a big star and I know he has a very big future ahead of him. I do feel proud of him when I read about him in the paper and hear about his success. He has put in a lot of hard work and he deserves it.

"I don't feel outshone by him in the slightest. I enjoy what I do and in my job working with patients who have cancer, I would get appreciated and admired in my own way too.

"I would never ever want to do what Conleth does, but I take my hat off to him for standing in front of thousands of people and performing. That is something I could never do.

"My two boys just love seeing him come home and love to dance to his music when it comes on the radio. We love to see his success, but he will always be my wee brother and he has always been a star in my eyes and fame will never change who he is to us."

Belfast Telegraph

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