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doting gran Mary Kennedy says it's 'tough' being apart from grandchildren as she waits for vaccine

The broadcaster tells of how she can't wait to get the Covid-19 vaccine if it means being reunited a second sooner with the adorable tots.

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Mary retired from RTÉ in 2019 after a long and successful career but the talented broadcaster remains in popular demand, mostly recently fronting new series Guaranteed Irish on TG4

Mary retired from RTÉ in 2019 after a long and successful career but the talented broadcaster remains in popular demand, mostly recently fronting new series Guaranteed Irish on TG4

Mary retired from RTÉ in 2019 after a long and successful career but the talented broadcaster remains in popular demand, mostly recently fronting new series Guaranteed Irish on TG4

Glammest of mams Mary Kennedy is just one of the hard-working women around the country due to put their feet up and be spoiled rotten by their family today.

As she marks her first Mother's Day in lockdown, however, these days it's her role as a doting granny that the former Nationwide presenter is relishing most.

And - in true Irish Mammy style - Mary freely admits she's a complete soft touch when it comes to her two grandchildren.

"It's hugely, hugely different," jokes Mary, of grandparenting almost two-year-old Paddy and four-month-old Holly.

"You just want to hold them all the time, whereas when they're your own children, you say 'Have you got your homework done?' and 'You've not allowed kick the ball at the front door!'

"Eva, my daughter, was telling me that Paddy was spooning the food out of the dog's bowl and passing it to the dog this morning - I thought that was really cute and she didn't. But that's the granny - granny can say, 'Oh, that's so cute!'"

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Mary is stylish as ever at 66.

Mary is stylish as ever at 66.

Mary is stylish as ever at 66.

Although the celebrations will be virtual this year, as the family lives in Limerick, Mary revealed how she just managed to get a cuddle off the latest arrival before Ireland entered a third lockdown.

And the Dancing with the Stars alumna can't wait to get the Covid-19 vaccine if it means being reunited a second sooner with the adorable tots.

"I can't get it quick enough," the mum-of-four tells Magazine+. "I'd take it anywhere - I'd take it in my big toe!

"I saw [Holly] at Christmas and that's it, but she was tiny then. Now she's gurgling and smiling and developing a little personality - I'd love to see her. Paddy was one in April, and obviously we didn't have a birthday, and it's not looking good for this year either.

"It doesn't make any difference to them because they're both so young, but it's tough for us. My heart goes out to grandparents who are used to having relationships with grandchildren who might be seven or eight, like my mother had with my children when they were school-going age. That must be heartbreaking not to see them."

The beloved broadcaster lost her own mum, Pauline, at the age of 83 to cancer 20 years ago this year, but like every holiday, told how her role model will be very much remembered today.

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"I remember when she was alive it was lovely to spend Mother's Day with her or to bring her to one of the family homes, because we had children at the time, so she was very much a part of it," says Mary, whose photographer daughter, Lucy, is currently back at home with her in South Dublin.

"We would always have a photograph up on the family WhatsApp - we do it with birthdays as well, and on Father's Day for my dad.

"I am very conscious of the fact that the female line is very important to me," adds the Clondalkin native, "and it's a strong female line. I think as Irish women we're kind of like warriors.

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Keen runner Mary loves exercise.

Keen runner Mary loves exercise.

Keen runner Mary loves exercise.

"We are Celts, we are strong and I think we need to take our power and to enjoy it - and to realise that we have huge qualities of empathy, of resilience and community.

"I have a lovely photograph actually of when Holly's mother was born, of my grandmother, my mother, me and Eva. My grandmother died when she was 102 so we're built of strong stuff - hard work."

That's something Gaeilgeoir Mary - who also has two adult sons, Tom and Eoin - has certainly never been afraid of throughout her four-decade career at Montrose.

After climbing the ladder from continuity announcer to hosting her own eponymous chat show and then on to Nationwide, she made no secret of her displeasure at having to retire from the state broadcaster after turning 65 in 2019, but has since leaned in to her new work/life balance.

"People say 'How are you enjoying retirement?'" says the 66-year-old, whose 15-year marriage to journalist Ronan Foster ended in 2005. "I say, 'Well, I don't know - I went straight from Nationwide to Dancing with the Stars and then straight into lockdown.

"I'm just looking forward to a little bit more freedom now, please God.

"I'm working kind of sporadically and it's nice," adds Mary, who recently fronted new series Guaranteed Irish on TG4 and is currently working on two upcoming RTÉ shows.

"It's actually very nice to be doing different things at a different pace and to be dipping my toe in other waters. When you get older, you don't want to be racing around at the same pace. I wanted to enjoy life as well, not be racing and chasing."

Today, the only racing around she does is to keep fit, making keen runner Mary the ideal ambassador for The Irish Osteoporosis Society.

She has teamed up with the charity to help raise awareness of the 'silent disease' among women over 65 this Mother's Day, after shock research found that nearly seven out of 10 hip fractures in Ireland happen to women and that one in five women die within 12 months of breaking their hip.

"As one gets older, one is very determined - and rightly so - to hold onto independence and mobility," says Mary, who is urging people to take a simple risk test at irishosteoporosis.ie as part of the 'She Doesn't Deserve a Break' campaign.

"I had the DEXA [a bone density scan] last summer because I would hate to, say, break an ankle or break my wrist or something for a reason that could have been prevented."

"After menopause, the bones become brittle because of the lack of oestrogen, and it is a blunt fact that more hip fractures happen to women, and that's just something we've got to take on board and do something about.

"I just think [getting tested] is a no-brainer really."

But superfit Mary explained how lacing up has been as much for her mind as her body as the mental effects of lockdown after lockdown finally caught up with her this year.

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Mary in her early days at RTÉ

Mary in her early days at RTÉ

Mary in her early days at RTÉ

"Oh, good days and bad, you know," she admits of coping with the latest extension to restrictions. "I find this [lockdown] particularly difficult.

"I feel the first one there was a novelty value. There was a slowing down from hectic paces for everybody, and then there was a nice bit of measured freedom during the summer.

"The second lockdown, I suppose there was something to look forward to, [although] Christmas was not nice, but then this one is interminable.

"I was never a January person, it's kind of a low time of the year, so I found this one particularly hard - like everybody else, I suppose, missing good sleep and things like that. It is really not easy.

"But then I watched the RTÉ Investigates [Covid-19 - The Third Wave] in Tallaght Hospital," continues Mary.

"There's two people working in healthcare on my cul de sac here and, my goodness, they are doing Trojan work.

"There was a time when you didn't know anybody who had it, and then, all of a sudden, you were hearing about people who knew people who had it, and then all of a sudden it was getting closer and closer, so we just had to be careful and so respectful.

"I've a first cousin who got it in the very early stages last Easter and that was just so fearful. It took him a long time to really recover.

"I did lose a dear friend [to the virus]. I'm part of a walking group and one of our members succumbed to Covid in October. That was tough."

One thing Mary, an avid gardener, says the cruel pandemic has taught her is to stop and smell the roses - something sure to have been cultivated by her blooming romance with partner Tom.

"It's just lovely," she smiles of finding love again after being introduced to the west of Ireland man by a friend over email two years ago. "He's a very nice man.

"With me, I'm always saying, 'OK, well, the sun may be shining today, but I said I was going to spring clean the back bedroom, so I'll do that anyway and then I'll be able to really enjoy the good weather when it properly comes,'" adds Mary, aunt to singer Dermot Kennedy. "Not anymore. Just stop. Enjoy the moment.

"I think that's something that we've hopefully learned from these lockdowns and restrictions - to live in the moment and have a laugh, have a glass of wine, have that extra slice of cake, really just enjoy life and stay healthy."

  • Visit irishosteoporosis.ie to take the osteoporosis risk test or follow The Irish Osteoporosis Society on Facebook and Twitter for more information

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