RTE Television

ICA Bootcamp

Returning for the toughest series yet, 12 more wide-eyed recruits head to ICA HQ where essential life-skills training, and the mentors, await.

With the recession kicking in, modern life has gotten a whole lot tougher for Ireland's pampered twenty-somethings. A whole generation is waking up to the fact that they never learned the skills that could help keep the wolf from the door in difficult economic times.

Enter the ICA mentors - Josephine, the crafts instructor, Marie the kitchen supremo and chief mentor Imelda - to show our young spendthrift singletons, the error of their ways.

Each week, four young women will eschew the trappings of modern life - from fake tan to expensive brunches - and sign up for a week long, intensive back-to-basics course. The recruits are set a series of challenges that will require them to tap hitherto unknown pools of resourcefulness, determination and pluck.

One will be chosen each week to go forward to the Grand Final. It will be the challenge of their lives, as they host the An Grianán Spring Fete for the cream of the ICA who will ultimately judge the winning recruit. The Grand Final will be more competitive than ever, as the girls strive to beat their rivals and the mentors are desperate not to lose face in front of the ICA sisterhood.

Series 2

Programme One

In episode one, the first four recruits arrive at Bootcamp to be greeted by Marie's macabre challenge. Filmed at the end of the shooting season, Marie takes the opportunity to throw the girls in at the deep end with a pheasant challenge. Each recruit is presented with their own, beautiful bird, to pluck, draw and serve for the mentors' tea. The first challenge is dissected and judged by the mentors in the drawing room.

After supper the challenges keep coming. This time the recruits are summoned to the parlour, where the sewing challenge is unveiled. Four mannequins greet them, each dressed in an outfit from the year the recruits were born. Over the next five days, the girls will have to take these fashion faux pas and make them fashion forward outfits for the graduation party.

Day Two dawns with an early morning call from Josephine and a trip off-site, where the girls learn the hard work that goes into growing our food. This week, the recruits are on a poultry farm, helping with the weekly quality control duties. The challenge is to catch and weigh five hens faster than the other team. The losers' forfeit is the dreaded dung sampling.

Back at Bootcamp, Imelda unveils the DIY challenge. One of the ICA's earliest and greatest achievements was the part it played in bringing electricity to rural Ireland. In honour of this, the recruits will compete in teams to replace the plug on a lamp. However, Imelda has arranged for a blackout during the challenge and the recruits will have to work by candlelight.

Day Three. Baking is synonymous with the ICA but Marie's baking challenge has a sting in the tail each week. The first week the girls will learn how to make a birthday cake. However, as they put the cakes in the oven, Marie reveals that their efforts will be judged by a local boy, Jake, who has invited everyone in his class to his birthday party, downstairs in An Grianán.

Day Three concludes with a lesson in home economics. With just €50 at their disposal, the recruits are divided into teams and given 15 minutes to do the grocery shopping for a family. Each week, the family's dietary requirements change, but the budget remains.

Day Four is given over to last minute sewing and frantic party piece practice. At 2pm an invited ICA Guild arrive at An Grianán and the curtain is raised on the graduation party. It's the last chance the recruits have to impress their mentors. And, following a heated debate, the results of the first episode are revealed.

Programme One Recruits:

Rachel Wallace is a marketing graduate who has been working as a model with the Assets Agency for the past three months. She describes herself as very competitive and in her teens was picked on the Irish Gymnastics team. Rachel models and works as a hostess.

Aisling Shevlin is from Drogheda. She has taken a gap year from her studies in the UK. At the moment, she's saving and working as a receptionist in a hospital in Louth at the moment.

Sophia McAndrew is studying media in Ballyfermot College. Fashion and facebook are her great passions. She'd describe her fashion style as a 'hun'!. She is laid-back to the point that she says she lost seven phones in the last year - one of them in her own house!

Jodie Wood is in her final year in college in UCD studying Molecular Biology. She loves horse riding but recently sold her horse. She said she doesn't have any problem being around animals as long as she doesn't have to kill them.

Programme Two

In episode two, the recruits are given their first task - an offal challenge! In the first 'throw them in at the deep end and see what they are made of' task, each team is given a bucket of blood and offal and asked to concoct a pig liver paté for the mentors supper. The finished product, and the recruits performance, is chewed over and digested in the drawing room at 5pm sharp. After supper, the challenges move to the parlour where the girls are presented with an outfit from the year in which they were born, which they will have to wear at the end of week graduation party. Over the coming evenings, they must work to breath new life into the old garments.

Day two dawns as usual, with an early morning call from Josephine and the farm visit. This week, the recruits are visiting a dairy farm where 10 day old calves need to be herded and tagged. The winners get a nice cup of tea. The losers get to powerwash the cowhouse, something no acrylic nails could hope to survive! Back at bootcamp, Imelda is armed with power tools and safety goggles for the DIY challenge. It's the return of the always entertaining flat-pack challenge, this week each team must erect a shelf capable of holding a box of books from the An Grianán library.

Day three's baking challenge is a return to the classic scone. However, Marie has lined up a factory of hungry workers in Drogheda, who have been promised scones and jam for their four o'clock break. With added ingredients on hand, which of the dolled up recipes will get the vote of the hungry workers? Day Three concludes again with the home economics challenge. This week, the €50 at the recruits disposal has to take into account the preference's of a multi-ethnic family with teenagers. Each week, the family's dietary requirements change, but the budget remains.

Day four is given over to last minute sewing and frantic party piece practice. At 2pm an invited ICA Guild arrive at An Grianán and the curtain is raised on the graduation party. It's the last chance the recruits have to impress their mentors. And, following a heated debate, the results of the second episode are revealed.

Programme Two Recruits:

Dubliner, Alisun Fox, finished a degree in acting in DIT over a year ago and has been in bed since, she claims! She worked for years in a posh restaurant in Howth but decided to quit and follow her passion - which is acting. She said she has zero cooking skills and learned absolutely nothing about food from working in a restaurant.

Sadie McDonald is from Belfast. She lives on a horse farm and rode a pony when she was younger though she did as little of the messy mucking out as possible. She's a vegetarian and loves animals and has often volunteered with animal shelters in Belfast. She is studying drama in Queens University and modeling with Style Academy. She says she has never sewed and is pretty terrified of the prospect.

Valentina Ngalinda was born in Tanzania but has lived in Ireland since she was four. She lives in Portobello with her mum and brother and speaks with a broad Dublin accent. Her mother does everything for her and finances all her socialising and spending. Valentina talks a mile a minute and has her own YouTube channel, which she and her brother upload videos to regularly.

Joanne Martin, is from Dublin. Understated, competitive and very focused, she has a very determined streak. She has been going out with Joey O'Brien (West Ham player) for more than five years. She hates the term WAG but has made peace with the fact that people will use it about her. She would love the chance to prove on Bootcamp that WAGs are people too - and capable people at that.

Programme Three

The ICA champions goat rearing in Ireland, as a healthy alternative to cows milk. The low-fat meat is making a come back and today, the girls are presented with their very own goat - well, goat's head actually, from which they'll cook up the mentors' supper. Not alone will their butchery skills be debated, their burgers will be dissected and their attitudes will be discussed before the winner of the first task is announced.

After supper, the recruits come face to face with their fashion pasts. They are each assigned an outfit from the year in which they were born, which they will have to remodel before they wear on the final, graduation day.

Spring has sprung in An Grianán for the Day Two farm visit. Today,the recruits will assist on a sheep farm maternity ward, where the first of the spring lamb is being born. Suited, booted and with gloves up to their armpits, the girls will have to deal with every eventuality on their lambing shift. Back at Bootcamp, self-sufficiency is on Imelda's mind. In the car park, there are two cars in need of a wheel change. The first team to successfully change the wheel and drive to the front entrance wins the bragging rights.

The ICA stalwart, brown soda bread, is Day Three's baking challenge classic. This time though, the girls must bake the bread, then create platters of sandwiches for the local GAA team, after their midweek training session. The final decision falls to the hungry players. Day Three concludes again with the home economics challenge. This week, the recruits have €50 to spend on a family of five, including taking account of a baby's needs.

Day Four is given over to last minute sewing and frantic party piece practice. At 2pm an invited ICA Guild arrive at An Grianán and the curtain is raised on the graduation party. It's the last chance the recruits have to impress their mentors. And, following a heated debate, the results of episode four are revealed.

Programme Three Recruits:

Judy Gilroy is a 25-year-old TV presenter and model living in Ballsbridge, Dublin. She says she represents the epitome of the Celtic Tiger generation - an independent, career driven girl who likes to have fun but admits it would be fair to say that she's missing the 'Susie Homemaker' gene! She even considers her oven to be extra storage space, rather than a kitchen appliance.

19-year-old, Anita O'Brien from Glounthaune, Cork City is the current Miss Universe Cork. She's in her second year studying commerce in UCC and moved out of home this year to share with three fellow students, in what she describes as 'a surprisingly messy house'. She has two brothers at home, and describes her Mam as a total yummy mummy who does everything for the three of them - cooking and baking and cleaning and all.

Lisa Nolan is an Assets model and also studies Sports Physiotherapy. It's a surprisingly earthy occupation for her but she says she's still the one who turns up with her face and nails done, and matching tracksuit top and pants. She adores cats, has a passion for cheese and wine, and just loves life .


Only child, Pamela Ryan grew up, and still lives in, Drimnagh, Dublin. She caught the modeling bug when she won the very first pagent she ever entered. Even though she's not yet 20, she has almost three years of modelling experience behind her. Along the way she's racked up experience as a commercial model and actor, and has also worked as a hostess.

Programme Four

The final episode of ICA Bootcamp brings bigger challenges, bigger twists and a great big tent in the garden of ICA HQ! The three best recruits are now going head-to-head for the title of ICA Recruit of the Year. And it's not just the girl's who are competing as the mentors are going head-to-head too. They'll put their reputation on the line by mentor a recruit and backing them to become the ultimate recruit. The recruits will be in charge of staging the An Grianán Garden Fęte, which will be attended by the big noises of the ICA, who will ultimately decide who takes home the sash.

The very first shock for the girls is when each gets a piece of paper directing them to a room in An Grianán. Awaiting them there, is their surprise mentor for the week. For the rest of the final, it'll be these pairs against the world.

The challenges include:

The return of the flatpacks
Each recruit is given a flatpack for a hostess trolley, but this time it must work. At the party, they'll use this trolley to serve their pie. So the pressure is on to get it together and make sure it's sturdy enough to be used on the big day.

Farm Challenge with a Twist
The recruits are given a chance to channel their inner stylist and give a girly-girl makeover to a sheep. They learn about the actual competitions all around the country where people groom and show sheep. So now they've a chance to put their spin on this age-old tradition and pimp their sheep.

Vegetable Arranging
Another chance for the recruits to show their artistic side. They visit a champion veg grower and are given the challenge of picking, cleaning and arranging their own award-winning veg collection. These will be on display as the guests for the garden party file in.

Bygone Beauty
The final day dawns with one last shock for the recruits. The mentors are in charge of their beauty regime for the day. And this being the ICA, the treatments are somewhat old-fashioned. So it's mudpacks on the face and raw eggs and vinegar in the hair, as the mentors beautify the girls.

The Dreaded Party Piece
A Grand Spring Party calls for some grand entertainment so the finalists are expected to take their party pieces up a notch.

At the fęte, the invited guests include all the regional presidents, the National President and 100 guild members of the ICA, from all around the country. And it is their vote that counts. As each task has it's conclusion in the marquee, it's all or nothing on the final day. The recruits' fate - and their mentors' - lies in the hands of their guests, where only one can be crowned champion.

Mentors Biogs:

Imelda Byrne - Millinery

Imelda is from Leighlinbridge, Co. Carlow and a member of the ICA Tullow Guild. She joined in the ICA first in 1978.
She loves hats. She thinks they complete an outfit and anyone can wear a hat - if they choose the right one. Learning to wear a hat is an art in itself. She deplores the demise of hat wearing.
On young people today she says "There's no real elegance any more. Elegance has got to be thought about. It's all prettiness and immediate, dolly bird appeal today. Not enough people own a full length mirror."

Josephine Helly - Crafts Instructor

Josephine lives in Ardrahan, Co. Galway and has been a member of Gort Guild since 1980s.
She teaches a vast array of crafts including dress making, crochet, knitting, leather work, framing, candlewick and embroidery.
She believes Bootcamp could be important to ICA and help them navigate the isues relevant to a new generation of women.

Marie McGuirk - Cookery

Marie was born in Newry and studied Home Economics and Catering in Belfast before moving to Drogheda when she married
In her cookery career, she has seen people's needs become more sophisticated but the basic cooking skills are in danger of being lost. For example, young people today have a different lifestyle, their expectations are greater and their emphasis has been on education. Still, everyone needs to have some cooking skills, especially when it comes to rearing a family.

ICA Bootcamp
  • RTÉ Two, Thursday, 9.30pm

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