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Targeted RTÉ star James Patrice reveals he was 'relentlessly' bulled in school for being gay

'It’s unfortunate and it’s not pleasant, but it does make you stronger, if you want to try and see a positive in it'

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James Patrice’s career is blossoming.

James Patrice’s career is blossoming.

James Patrice’s career is blossoming.

Irish TV and social media star James Patrice reveals how a near-death experience as a child has helped him deal with personal challenges in life.

The popular TV presenter says he was mercilessly taunted by bullies during his school days as a teenager, and called “f****t”, “queer” and “you’re a girl.”

But Patrice, from Dublin’s Malahide, believes that the experience of surviving meningitis and septicaemia when he was just 10 years old has given him a positive perspective on negative issues.

“I’ve always valued life, it’s very short,” James tells the Sunday World. “I had meningitis and septicaemia when I was 10 and that was fairly intense, I nearly kicked the bucket, as they say. It was frightening for my parents. There was a period of 48 hours in Temple Street where they were told, ‘we just don’t know.’

“When that kind of thing happens to you it just puts everything into perspective, and perspective is a gift that everyone should try and get a grasp on in life. People get so stressed and worried about things, and ultimately does it matter?

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James and Fair City’s Ryan Andrews.

James and Fair City’s Ryan Andrews.

James and Fair City’s Ryan Andrews.

“We all have our moments, but you just have to realise there’s way more important stuff going on. People are going through a lot worse than you, and ultimately it’ll be grand.

“My motto is, ‘Get on with it, keep her lit, keep the upper lip going, have a coffee and go for a browse around Penneys.’ That’s my mantra in life.

“Growing up, I was bullied in school. Thankfully, it was never anything physical, but there was relentless name calling… ‘f****t’, ‘queer’ and ‘you’re a girl.’

“It’s unfortunate and it’s not pleasant, but it does make you stronger, if you want to try and see a positive in it. It makes you realise who you are, and for me it made me proud of who I was. I never tried to be anything that I wasn’t.

“I stuck to my guns, and you look at these people who chose to make other people feel small and you feel sorry for them. Whatever is going on in their life, they’re choosing to make others feel bad.

“Back then I had to take it on the chin, but I always say the beauty was when you came home and shut the door after school you were in your safe haven.”

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 James and co-host Ryan Andrews.

James and co-host Ryan Andrews.

James and co-host Ryan Andrews.

James, whose real surname is Butler, has an older sister, Vanessa, and says his parents, Jim and Veronica, have always been a very supportive force in the lives of their two children.

His father Jim, who is originally from Carlow, worked as a barman in Malahide for 50 years, while Veronica can be regularly spotted as an extra in RTE’s TV soap, Fair City.

During his early days in secondary school, James told his parents he was being bullied. “If I was feeling down I would tell Mum and Dad and they’d say, ‘Let us in, we’ll sort them.’ I’d say, ‘No, no, there’s no need for that.’ They would encourage me to talk to a teacher, but I think they trusted me and my approach to it and attitude to it as well.

“Thankfully it never got to a point where I couldn’t go to school or I couldn’t leave the house, but it was relentless, it was almost every day. As you get older you learn to turn around and start telling these people to feck off. I got way more brazen as I got older and less likely to suffer fools.”

Does James, who is single and still lives with his parents, see any of his former tormentors in the neighbourhood these days?

“Oh, you still see some around,” he laughs. “They’d be saying to you, ‘oh, you’re gas, you’re doing great, my girlfriend loves following you.’ I give people the benefit of the doubt, but you never forget and you can always spot a pr**k a mile off.”

James credits his parents with his success as a performer these days. “I was a very shy child, so they sent me to speech and drama classes when I was four,” he says. “My sister, Vanessa, is five years older than me and they’d seen how she had thrived when they sent her to speech and drama.

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James and Fair City’s Ryan Andrews will co-host Park N Party.

James and Fair City’s Ryan Andrews will co-host Park N Party.

James and Fair City’s Ryan Andrews will co-host Park N Party.

“It stood to me in terms of confidence and public speaking, finding your way through life and finding your voice. I always encourage any parent, if they can, to pop their child into music or drama or something creative or expressive.

“Dad and Mum spent every penny they had on Vanessa and me. They’d barely go on holidays and never went out for meals. I’ll always be so appreciative of what they did for us.”

Today, James works as a reporter on RTE’s The Today Show and is presenter of the new RTE Player show, Battle of the Food Trucks.

Patrice is also set to co-host a new series of drive-in variety shows, Park N Party, around the country with Fair City and panto star Ryan Andrews. It will have a big band, dancers, karaoke, bingo and much more.

  • Park N Party will be staged at Malahide Castle from July 30-August 2; Junction 14, Mayfield, Kildare from August 6-8 and Black Box in Galway, from August 27-29.

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