Miriam O'Reilly

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Miriam O'Reilly
Born (1957-02-16) 16 February 1957 (age 57)
Balbriggan, County Dublin, Ireland
Occupation Television and radio presenter

Miriam O'Reilly (born 16 February 1957 in Balbriggan, County Dublin) is an English television presenter, best known as a former presenter on the BBC One rural affairs show Countryfile.

Early life and career[edit]

The daughter of an Irish farmer who came to England in the 1950s,[1] O'Reilly left school aged seventeen, keen to be a journalist.

She applied for newspaper apprenticeships while working several jobs, including work on the children's television programme Tiswas.[2] She then worked for the BBC on the Radio 4 programmes Farming Today, Costing the Earth and Woman's Hour. She also worked as a television presenter, on field and specialist reports, perhaps most notably on Countryfile. O'Reilly was also well known as a co-presenter on the BBC's Midlands Today programme, alongside longtime regulars Kay Alexander and Sue Beardsmore.

After she was dropped from Countryfile in 2009, she successfully sued the BBC for age discrimination, saying at the start of her court case that she could no longer watch the programme after being axed from it, as it was too emotionally painful.[3][4] During the hearing, former BBC One Controller Jay Hunt (ten years O'Reilly's junior) was called as a witness, who O'Reilly accused of ageism, sexism and that she "hated women."[5] In January 2011, the day after Hunt began working at Channel 4, O'Reilly's claims for age discrimination and victimisation were upheld.[3] In February 2011 O'Reilly presented a show about ageism on ITV1 called Too Old For TV?, as part of the Tonight television series.[6] In March 2011, as part of its coverage of International Women's Day, The Guardian newspaper included O'Reilly in its list of the "Top 100 Most Inspirational Women" in the world saying, "The landmark judgement will change the way the BBC, and inevitably other broadcasters, operate."[7] Some time after the case, O'Reilly spoke about how dozens of older BBC women presenters had their careers saved as a result of her legal action. O'Reilly was also included in an exhibition at BBC Television Centre of women who had made a significant contribution towards equality at the Corporation since its formation in 1922.[8]

In June 2011, O'Reilly returned to the BBC as the co-presenter for the third series of Crimewatch Roadshow with Rav Wilding.[9] In July 2011, a photograph of O'Reilly by Kate Peters was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in the People of Today collection.[10]

O'Reilly announced in January 2012 that she would cease working with the BBC to concentrate on her charity, the Women's Equality Network.[11]

On 22 February 2012, the comedian Rowan Atkinson had a letter he wrote to The Media Show read about the Miriam O'Reilly case. His position was not sympathetic, complaining that the creative industries should not be seen as a platform for casting legal cases against discrimination. Atkinson was denounced for suggesting creative types were above the law and his stance came in for widespread criticism.[12]

In July 2012 it was revealed that George Entwistle, the BBC director-general, told Miriam O'Reilly that he was keen for her to return to the BBC in a prominent presenting role.[13] In September 2012, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman asked O'Reilly to head up Labour's new commission on older women in the media and public life.[14]

In April 2013 O'Reilly revealed that she was putting her name forward to be selected as the Labour Party candidate for the Nuneaton seat at the United Kingdom general election, 2015. On Saturday 6 July 2013 O'Reilly lost the vote for selection as the PPC for Nuneaton. Constituency Labour Party members opted for local candidate, 22 year old Victoria Fowler. [15]

O'Reilly's fight for equality for older women was included in a book on 21st century feminism, "What Should We Tell Our Daughters?" by Melissa Benn. O'Reilly is quoted "everyone plays down the problems of older women ... it's as if younger women project their fear of the consequences of their own ageing onto other women, rather than tackle the structures that diminish us all." [16]

Personal life[edit]

O'Reilly is the sister of the playwright Kaite O'Reilly, winner of the Ted Hughes Award (2011) for her version of Aeschylus' tragedy The Persians.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wynne-Jones, Jonathan (16 January 2011). "Miriam O'Reilly tells of anger at BBC". Telegraph Online (London: Telegraph Media Group). Retrieved 23 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Miriam O'Reilly". Woman's Hour. BBC. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Plunkett, John (11 January 2011). "Countryfile's Miriam O'Reilly wins BBC ageism claim". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  4. ^ "O'Reilly v BBC (Employment Tribunal decision)". AgeDiscrimination.info. 10 January 2011. 
  5. ^ Deans, Jason (5 November 2010). "Former BBC1 controller dropped older presenters 'because she hated women'". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2010-11-07. 
  6. ^ "Too Old For TV?". ITV. 
  7. ^ Saner, Emine (8 March 2011). "Miriam O'Reilly - Top 100 women". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2011-04-13. 
  8. ^ Walker, Tim (2011-03-14). "Miriam O'Reilly and Moira Stewart are belatedly honoured by the BBC". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 13 April 2011. 
  9. ^ "Miriam O'Reilly joins Rav Wilding on BBC One Daytime's Crimewatch Roadshow" (Press release). BBC Press Office. 8 April 2011. 
  10. ^ "Miriam O'Reilly". National Portrait Gallery. 
  11. ^ "Miriam O'Reilly to leave BBC one year after ageism victory". AgeDiscrimination.info. 18 January 2012. 
  12. ^ Hayday, Graham (24 February 2012). "A week on the web: Rowan Atkinson, Miriam O'Reilly and ageism". The Guardian (London). 
  13. ^ http://www.agediscrimination.info/News/Pages/ItemPage.aspx?Item=652
  14. ^ Grice, Andrew (29 September 2012). "Labour turns to BBC stars in new fight for rights of older women". The Independent (London). 
  15. ^ http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/2013/04/15/former-bbc-countryfile-presenter-miriam-o-reilly-wants-to-be-nuneaton-mp-92746-33175648/
  16. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/25/what-should-tell-daughters-review/
  17. ^ "Ceredigion poet Kaite O'Reilly wins Ted Hughes Award". BBC News. 2011-03-25. Retrieved 2011-04-13. 

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