New York Irish hotelier John Fitzpatrick said taking part in RTE’s “The Secret Millionaire” show has changed his life. As part of the first series of the reality TV show, based in Ireland, Fitzpatrick visited Dundalk, County Louth, going undercover to find worthwhile charities in the area to support.
Fitzpatrick told RTE about the high points and low points of this dramatic experience. He said “It's funny; the low point was the very first night I arrived. I was away from the hotel which I've never been for so long, they told me I couldn't carry my phones and I live by these things. My big worry was whether I was going to do the right thing: it takes so much to raise this money."
Having overcome the shock of being separated from his creature comforts and his business Fitzpatrick found the true low point of the experience having to leave.
“By the end, in one way, the low point was leaving. On the last day the crew said, 'I think we'll cut this short by half a day, we've got it all done.' And even when they left, I stayed that night and I went around to talk to some of the people I'd met because I didn't feel good not telling them who I really was and what we were doing."
"I felt I got more, or as much out of it as they did...It was very humbling. You read the papers about everybody losing this and losing that, it is tough but these guys never saw this Celtic Tiger.
"The Irish are very generous and we're going away to South Africa building houses which I think is fantastic but we should also not forget our own."
For Fitzpatick, the president of Fitzpatrick Hotels, this was the first time in 20 years he had taken a step back from his businesses. He found the dramatic change jarring. On his first evening, in a flat in Dundalk, the production crew explained the ground rules and brought him shopping.
“They [took] me shopping and I'm a single guy so I don't cook and I picked out a frozen pizza. Then they dropped me back to the flat and they left me.
"It was grim so I said to myself 'I have to live here for a week so I have to clean.'...There was a mouse trap in the kitchen and there was mouse droppings so I cleaned the place for an hour and a half, mopped the floors, cleaned the bathroom and once that was done, I felt, it's clean.
Giving an exclusive to his in house drama he explained “Then - and this is the best story, this doesn't come out on the cameras - I turned on the oven for my pizza, and ten minutes later I heard this crash and the door came off the oven. Whoever was renting that apartment, or flat, before me must have broken the door off and glued it so the landlord wouldn't see it and when the heat came on the door fell off. So I said there goes me dinner, and I saw a fish and chip shop out the window...!"
The award winning Irish businessman also opened up to RTE about his personal life. He added “People say 'why haven't you settled down?' and it's true that I have met some fantastic women but maybe they can't put up with me. I tell you what it is, it's my work, I'd love to find someone, there's no doubt about it but I find that I am a workaholic and people have to get used to that. I start dating girls and they say 'Oh yeah, I can get used to that but after a few months, I know they can't and I get a bit of niggling and nagging and then...
"In my early years I didn't want to get married and that's why I ran away from a lot of stuff, I just walked but now that I see my nephews grow up and everything I love the kids, I love the nephews and nieces and my friends kids but I have to find the right person first!"
The Secret Millionaire is on RTÉ One on Monday, September 26th, 9.35pm (Irish time).