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Derry Girls' Tommy Tiernan shrugs off criticism for telling unionists to 'f*** off to Israel'

Exclusive: Comedian on Belfast gig row

Comedian Tommy Tiernan
Picture By David Conachy.
Comedian Tommy Tiernan Picture By David Conachy.

Comedian and Derry Girls star Tommy Tiernan has brushed off recent criticism of a joke telling unionists to "f*** off to Israel".

Police received a complaint about the gag made during a gig at the Ulster Hall in Belfast last month but the Father Ted actor isn't worried.

In an interview in today's Sunday Independent, he says: "There's an airborne Greek chorus at the moment and a very strong tendency to condemn.

"I think the media have replaced the church and journalists are the new priests."

According to reports, a number of people walked out of the show while others who stayed said both sides of the political divide were subject to jibes.

Commenting online, one person said he singled out Secretary of State Karen Bradley and a number of unionists, including Arlene Foster.

In today's candid chat, he also revealed he has abandoned a decade off the drink and now makes a point of having a glass of wine every day thanks to his wife.

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"Yvonne [McMahon] asked me to start drinking. I think I had just become no craic," he explained.

"I think she was sort of missing out on a shared experience with her partner. She'd be thinking, 'I'm having a glass of wine and Tommy's reading'."

"We can become very precious and concerned about how we come across and maybe that had happened a bit to me.

Tommy Tiernan at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Tommy Tiernan at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

"There is a level of drunkenness where you lose control of all of that and I think there is something to be valued in that."

The Donegal-born comic also spoke of how he was touched inappropriately by a teacher when he was in his teens.

"Because I was never sexually abused as a child, it didn't trigger any memory of something that happened when I was younger. But bloody sure he touched me," he said.

"He was so camp, and he had a lisp as well. He'd be grabbing and squeezing you, but you couldn't challenge his authority. But maybe he thought, 'This weak, genial young man will tolerate it'. I was 16."

It was followed by a similar experience the same year when he was hitch-hiking from Dublin to Navan, forcing him to flee the man's car.

Mr Tiernan (49) also spoke of how he used to blow thousands of his earnings on his family and, despite sell-out runs, he is still not rich.

Gerry Quin (Tommy Tiernan), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan)
Gerry Quin (Tommy Tiernan), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), Clare Devlin (Nicola Coughlan)

"I was rich at one stage, but money is a trembling orb that has to go somewhere," he said.

"About 10 years ago I had loads of money and I was underwhelmed by it. I spent it very flamboyantly, for instance, I flew my entire family first class to Australia. "None of us knew how to ski, but I also brought us to the most expensive ski resort in Europe for a week. All that is quite distorting; it's not something I'd yearn for again. It's like sugar - too sweet to be wholesome."

n The new series of The Tommy Tiernan Show begins on Saturday, May 4, at 9.30pm, on RTE One.

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