'all or nothing' | 

Aoibhin Garrihy says she 'loved acting — but it was easy to quit’

“People say do you miss it? I miss the doing of it, because I loved it. I really did. But do I miss the industry? Absolutely not. It was an easy one to walk away from.”

Dubliner Aoibhín Garrihy has embraced rural living in Co Clare. Picture: Tommy Dickson

Esther McCarthy

She has successfully built up her lifestyle brand from scratch, pivoting her business as challenges struck. Now Aoibhín Garrihy has told how her decision to hone her family’s entrepreneurial spirit was driven by her desire to quit acting for good.

Aoibhín decided to walk away from a career that included roles in top soap Fair City and The Fall - because she feared the precarious nature of the business was impacting on her.

Instead, she relocated to Co Clare with husband John Burke as the couple started their young family - and she has no regrets about her “all or nothing” career change.

Aoibhín as Neasa Dillon in Fair City.

Acting is a notoriously challenging career even for the successful, and the freelance nature of it can mean lengthy periods without work.

“I’m quite competitive. So it just didn’t bode well with me to be doing something and not feel like I was thriving, I suppose,” she tells SW Magazine+.

“Also, it was starting to chip away at my mental state as well. It was getting me down that things weren’t moving as quickly as I like to move. It was a bit of an all or nothing thing and I am a bit like that.”

Aoibhín with husband, John Burke, and their daughters, Hanorah, Líobhan and baby Isla

As she made her decision, she recalled advice given by a friend in the industry as she was starting out.

“I remember somebody in the very early stages, when I said I’m thinking about acting, they said: ‘Aoibhín the way I would put it to you is can you can you live without it? If you can’t, go for it. If you can, forget it!’

“It really was that simple for me, and I know so many people who just can’t live without it. It’s all that they want. It’s all that they know. But for me, I could see other options. And I guess that’s coming from a family who have their own businesses.”

Aoibhín with her mum, Clare, and sisters, Doireann and Ailbhe, taking part in the Vhi Women’s Mini Marathon in 2019

Though she loved taking on roles, she doesn’t miss the more challenging elements of the industry itself.

“People say do you miss it? I miss the doing of it, because I loved it. I really did. But do I miss the industry? Absolutely not. It was an easy one to walk away from.”

Aoibhín aptitude for business was inspired partly by her own background and partly by seeing the joy on the face of husband John when he came up with new ideas and projects. Members of her family established their own businesses, while John is always coming up with future plans.

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“He’s really creative. He’s a hotelier, but he would have 10 different projects on the go, all very different and all very diverse. And he was so fulfilled by each one of those. And I thought: ‘I want a bit of that’. He was getting so excited, was so creative in what he was doing.

“I just thought, actually, I could totally see myself doing something similar. It was kind of a no brainer, unless I was preparing to really base myself at the very least in Dublin, it (acting) just wasn’t an option to me. Because I needed to be here.”

Making the big lifestyle decisions to move to Co Clare and change her career haven’t come without huge challenges. Beo, the wellness brand which she set up with Sharon Connellan, originated through live, in-person events throughout the country. When the pandemic struck, the women had to radically alter their approach.

“You build a business, a live event business that utterly grinds to a halt. That was our way of connecting with our audience and at that point, we had welcomed maybe 35,000 women across Ireland and Northern Ireland. We had built up a community, and then that community kind of devolved.

“There were itches there that we wanted to scratch and you know, we’re quite creative in the sense that we’re really inspired by where we are.

“It’s beautiful and we love aesthetics and we love tapping into all of that. We started to build on the brand name and the product range that has gone on to becoming a lifestyle brand.

“We really wanted to hone in on sleep because it was something that kept cropping up again and again. If you’re not sleeping well, you’re not eating, you’re not training, you’re not functioning properly.”

Like her business partner, she has three children under four, and both women have learned to embrace the chaos.

“The two of us have six children under four. And so all of this happens in the depths of night and in between feeds. I’m lucky in that we’re both at similar life stages. So we understand that some days are just a s**t show - and then other days, you’d have your s**t sorted together!” She laughs.

“We tend to pick up the slack for one another in that sense. Sometimes my head just can’t process orders or trying to do stocktakes or bulk orders, or trying to deal with Brexit at the Suez Canal.”

Aoibhín grew up in Dublin with her Co Clare-born parents and sisters Doireann - a successful broadcaster, and Ailbhe, who works in marketing and PR. But she always felt an affiliation to her parents’ home county, and decided to move there to raise daughters Hanorah, Liobhan and baby Isla with hotelier husband John.

The decision has been rewarding in so many ways. Just days before we spoke, she returned to her childhood haunt of Aillwee Caves to see for herself the new Aillwee Burren Experience and meet their extraordinary birds of prey for our photoshoot. The caves are located near where her own mother grew up.

“I didn’t really find myself flinching once because they were just so calm. They swoop in, they land and all of a sudden you have this huge bird perched on your wrist or your hand.

"Owls and hawks and falcons, you name it they have it all there. With the backdrop of the Burren and it was a beautiful day, it was really picturesque and it just reminded me that I need to bring the gang up. I think they’d really love it.

Aoibhín enjoying the Burren Birds of Prey Centre; all smiles with husband, John Burke, and their daughters, Hanorah, Líobhan and baby Isla; and as Neasa Dillon in Fair City.

“It’s always great to have options when you’re looking to kill a few hours with three smallies and these things right on the doorstep.

“I grew up in Dublin, but have definitely put down the roots here now. With three little girls, the countryside is just a lovely place to raise a family. I’m so happy here really, and it’s great to have so much on offer.”

Aoibhín’s love for the banner county was first fostered when her parents would bring the family there for childhood family holidays. “My dad and mum are from Clare, and they never really forgot the beauty of where they came from and would always try and instil that in us. We would always spend summer holidays and long weekends in the west and so I suppose we felt we had the best of both worlds. We were lucky enough to be brought on foreign holidays too but the best memories were spent in the West.

“I love the county - I always have, I just think it’s got everything you could possibly need.”

Aoibhin spoke to Sunday World to promote the Aillwee Burren Experience, which has reopened to the public following a €1 million renovation and upgrade.

For the explorer, Aillwee Cave itself will unlock an intriguing, timeless story full of fossils and formations during a 45-minute fully guided underground tour. For the adventurer the majestic Birds of Prey collection can be enjoyed during daily interactive flying displays where there is an opportunity to learn about the incredible UNESCO protected Art of Falconry.

And for the foodie, take a step back in time and learn about sustainable farmhouse methods used in creating the award-winning Burren Gold Cheese, not forgetting the fudge also made onsite.

  • For more information or to book visit aillweeburrenexperience.ie

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