Belfast Telegraph

Now lucky Cat has got our Pat, she's laughing

By Gail Walker

The news of Patrick Kielty's wedding to Cat Deeley in Rome, which broke over the weekend, wasn't a huge surprise. The two have been friends for more than 10 years and have been a serious item for some time but formally since May this year.

What was remarkable, though, was that the pair forsook the usual route for "celebrity" couples - selling exclusive rights to a gossip magazine, high-profile guests, an elaborate ceremony at peak hours.

Instead, they wed in Rome with just close family and friends.

People from Northern Ireland who "make it big" - which invariably means "make it in England" - are not short of media attention there or here. There is a long track record of comedians and actors and presenters who have made an enduring impact in GB, so every new face from here, once noticed, tends to get more than their share of scrutiny.

Kielty, though, was always different. At 41, from Dundrum in Co Down, he is very much a product of the modern Northern Ireland. Much younger than other successful comedians from here - the Carsons, the Walkers - Kielty had no fear of cultural shibboleths and no reverence for them either. He was wise-cracking about bigotry, the Troubles and political personalities here from the outset of his career and drew the usual mixture of opprobrium, as he neatly dodged the efforts to pigeon-hole him into one side or the other.

Kielty's iconoclastic wit is all the more notable when one realises that, although he manages to transcend the "Ulster thing", his own life has been affected by the Troubles. However, the murder of his father by terrorists when the comedian was still at school failed to poison the young man's outlook or derail his talent. What was certainly a defining moment in his life was not allowed to become a defining event in his career. Kielty was rightly cautious and private about his family and his history as his star rose.

But when the time was right to speak about what had happened to his family and himself, he was open, blunt and honest. Many people here gained a new respect for the man in how he handled himself and his memories.

It is important to say these things now, at a time when the presenter, his friends and family, are enjoying what must be one of the happiest moments of his life.

We tend to forget just how long he has been on the scene, how long he has been a star and how well he has represented his native place over those years. There has been no transformation of his accent into one of those honking moose-calls of mid-Atlantic pretension. There is no dodging of origin - quite the reverse. He has been keen to promote his home place, whether on RTE as a celebrity GAA manager or carrying the Olympic Torch down Main Street in Dundrum, and bringing to the village a much-needed little touch of class over the summer.

Despite the horror Northern Ireland inflicted on him, he emerged a man without bitterness, rising above the sectarianism of the place, happy to run alongside Prince William at Sports Relief.

It would have been understandable if, once he had become famous and could afford the best London has to offer, Kielty had transported his whole family, bag and baggage, to England and never set foot on this island again. Many survivors of the Troubles dream of having the power or the money to do exactly that, to be removed from the scenes of their worst memories, from among the very people and places which had brought grief to their door. No one would blame them.

Kielty, though, has taken a different route and we should all take a moment to acknowledge that in this week when he will be in top form, with his beautiful bride, who is successful in her own right, and his career progressing steadily.

He is not the biggest star we have produced - he wouldn't argue against George or Van. He may not even be the most successful comedian - he would be the first to salute the late Frank Carson. He may not even be the one with the greatest public longevity - that would be Gloria, I'd say.

But he is a star and he has stayed true to us here when he had every single reason you could think of to shake the dust of this place off his feet. He used his fame to temper a little the instinctive reactions of those across the water against us and our country.

It's a good time to put on record the simple fact we've noticed.

Thanks, Paddy, and good luck to you and your wife.

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