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Bust up Eamonn Holmes told Anne Robinson he'd 'knock her f*****g head off' over 'bad dad' comment

The television heavyweights faced off in an airport lounge

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Eamonn and Joe Duffy on The Meaning of Life

Eamonn and Joe Duffy on The Meaning of Life

Eamonn and Joe Duffy on The Meaning of Life

Eamonn Holmes once told Anne Robinson he’d punch her if she was a man for calling him a bad dad, a new TV interview reveals.

But the big-hearted Belfast man forgave the Countdown host for her remarks when she said sorry.

The TV presenter says the comment hit home because he’d learned to be a good father from his own dad Leonard, who died suddenly from a heart attack 30 years ago.

During an emotional interview with Joe Duffy on RTE’s The Meaning of Life, Eamonn twice holds back tears as he talks about his dad and his beloved brothers.

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Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson

Anne Robinson

 

He opens up to radio presenter Joe about the trials of growing up in north Belfast during the Troubles, the sanctity he found in St Malachy’s College where the interview was recorded, and how mum Josie regards her star son as just one of her boys.

The This Morning host reveals he caught up with Anne Robinson in a Belfast airport departure lounge after she’d labelled him a bad father.

When Eamonn worked in London and his family lived in Northern Ireland he flew home for school sports days or waited for the last flight out of Belfast so he could be at home to tuck his children into bed. The TV legend has three children with his first wife Gabrielle, and a son with wife and co-host Ruth Langsford.

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Eamonn with mum Josie and kids Declan, Jack, Niall and Rebecca

Eamonn with mum Josie and kids Declan, Jack, Niall and Rebecca

Eamonn with mum Josie and kids Declan, Jack, Niall and Rebecca

 

“I’m a good father. No matter how old my children are — they’re 32, 30, 28 and 18 — I check in with them. I do my best,” he says.

He was hurt and angry at the remarks from the former Weakest Link host and shared his feelings the next time he saw her, when they were the only two people in the departure lounge.

“I walked over to her and I simply said, ‘if you were a bloke, I would knock your f*****g head off. I just want you to know that.

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“Subsequently Anne Robinson asked me to sit beside her on the plane and I thought twice about it and I sat down beside her, and we had a very enlightening conversation, a reasonably sensible conversation, and she apologised.

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Eamonn and Ruth

Eamonn and Ruth

Eamonn and Ruth

 

“What can you do when someone apologises? You are left with a choice do you forgive or don’t forgive, and I decided to forgive her.”

The former Sky presenter also shares his pride in his father’s skills as a master carpet fitter, and his physical affection for his five sons. “He hugged us and kissed us. He said ‘you are never too old to kiss your daddy’.

“I always remember when he kissed us and feeling the stubble on his face, and when he was in his coffin, I remember that was the last thing I did was touch his face.”

Eamonn grew up in an interface area on the Cliftonville Road where his St Malachy’s uniform identified him as a Catholic.

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Eamonn with his first wife Gabrielle

Eamonn with his first wife Gabrielle

Eamonn with his first wife Gabrielle

 

He recalls then principal Rev Patrick Walsh handing him a detention when his bus was hijacked and set on fire but respected his attempts to keep the conflict outside the school gates, while the school was a “tranquil oasis of learning”.

But things were very different on the streets and he took part in after-school clubs to avoid gangs who were waiting to jump pupils getting off the bus, and carried a geometry set divider in case he was attacked.

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Eamonn Holmes and Ruth

Eamonn Holmes and Ruth

Eamonn Holmes and Ruth

 

“For seven years of my life I went home with a divider in my hand,” he says.

“Would I have used that? Yes, I would have used that in sheer defence. You had to survive.”

After a stint in Primark as a trainee manager, he landed his first job as a farming reporter in UTV and vowed he’d work to be the best in the business.

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Eamonn on his fourth birthday at the family home in Belfast

Eamonn on his fourth birthday at the family home in Belfast

Eamonn on his fourth birthday at the family home in Belfast

 

“In tribute to my dad, and having experienced what real work was like, I thought I’m going to do this so well and I’m going to be so competitive about this that I have no interest in going back to reality and that pushed me and forced me on.”

And when Sky News suggested he should go on a hostile environment course to deal with dangerous conditions in the field he drew on his experience in Northern Ireland.

“I said, ‘do you see these shoes? They are shiny. They are made for shiny floors. They are made for studios. I have been in Belfast and I have done what I need to do.  I don’t want to do it again. You are not paying me enough to die for Sky News,’” says Eamonn.

The Meaning of Life is on RTE1 tonight at 10.30pm.

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com

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