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Flesh & Blood RTÉ One, Tuesday 9.30pm

Harry Browne

Journalist Harry Browne reveals the details of his extraordinary childhood in New York where he grew up as the secret son of a priest

His father, a Roman Catholic priest, has a street in New York named after him.  His mother, Flavia, a feminist and an academic, chose to have a family and a secret relationship for over 20 years with Fr. Harry Browne.  The son, Harry Browne junior and his mother Flavia Alaya look back and try to make sense of it all.

Journalist Harry Browne has been living in Ireland since the early 1980s.  He came here not long after his father's untimely death.  Harry had an extraordinary childhood.  He didn't know that he was the product of a secret relationship, that he and his siblings were a secret family. Coming to Ireland was both running away and coming home, to his father's country. 

In this programme Harry looks honestly at the impact that his parent's relationship and the choices they made had on him and his family. His mother Flavia talks openly and honestly about the cost of loving the priest Harry Browne, not only to her, personally, but to her children. She speaks about the passionate love affair with the priest and their joint pursuit of happiness as they broke the mould on what it meant to be a traditional family in the twentieth century. Flavia and Harry had three children before he eventually left the priesthood. Why didn't she insist on him leaving before then? Flavia was very understanding and tolerant of his priesthood and very supportive of his political campaigning for the social underclasses.

But the relationship began to decline after Harry left the priesthood.  Flavia was in her prime with a successful career while Harry was struggling with his own identity. Then Harry became terminally ill and died in 1980. Two years later Flavia married, Harry moved out and Flavia's new husband moved in despite objections from the remaining two young teenagers.

Looking back now Flavia realises the mistakes she made but admits she would do it all over again.  "People would never have children if they knew what they were in for and I think having have to be brave to do it but you also have to be utterly stupid if you think you're going to be in control."

Harry Browne and family
Harry and Flavia