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George Hook

Thursday, 10 December 2009

RTÉ Press Release:-
"George Hook Duets with pals all in the Name of Charity.

George Hook, broadcaster and rugby pundit has taken on one of the biggest challenges of his life. He has been in the recording studio to sing for COMBER, a special Charity he truly believes in. George has been a patron of Comber for many years and it is his sincere hope that his efforts in the studio will raise much needed funds and bring media attention to the plight of these 'forgotten' young people.

George has teamed up with Executive Producer Bill Hughes and Producers Ronan Johnston and Larry Hogan and together they have selected eleven wonderful tracks to make up this special album. Of the chosen songs, eight are duets with some of Ireland's best known singers including Dana in playful and flirtatious mode on Goodness Gracious Me, Brian Kennedy with a moving and poignant rendition of Human, Jack L in powerhouse form on Mack the Knife, Marc Roberts adding beautiful and affecting harmonies on First We Take Manhattan, Emma O'Driscoll in cheeky form on These Boots Are Made For Walking and the wonderful Eleanor McEvoy, who has written a new song with Paul Brady 'Is That Love?' Also in the line up is George's rugby nemesis Brent Pope with some good-natured ribbing on You've Got A Friend In Me and soccer pundit Johnny Giles with solid support on Sixteen Tons.

George also performs as a solo artist with How Oft Do My Thoughts (The Banks), You Were Always On My Mind and he gives a stirring and breathtaking vocal on the Henry Higgins rant from My Fair Lady - A Hymn To Him.

It's not only an ideal Christmas gift but proceeds are going to a really good cause.

The album will be released on the RTÉ label and in-store from November 13th".

About Comber:

Comber is an Irish NGO which has worked with children in orphanages in Romania since 1991. Comber is now working with the Romanian Government to drive the closure of institutions for children and young adults with disabilities - those young adults who have been forgotten about and are in homes/facilities which are state-run.

What services Comber provides:

- Providing homes in the community for adults with disabilities still living in institutions
- Helping families to keep children with disabilities at home
- Education & Training with our Romanian partners

What Comber does:

Comber actively supports the closure of all remaining adult institutions in Giurgiu County, Romania, and the provision of appropriate homes in the community for those still living in care. In the coming years, Comber will roll out this model into other counties and regions. Over the last number of years, huge progress has been made in the closure of Romania's institutions for children. Sadly, many adult institutions still remain.

Comber believes that no child or adult belongs in an institution. Comber supports Romanian authorities to develop sustainable alternatives to institutions.

Recent achievements:

. Opening 6 group homes for 40 former institution residents in partnership with local authorities in Giurgiu County
. Providing ongoing support for adults to pursue employment and further education and training
. Establishing a partner organisation in Romania - Prieten Pentru Viata
. Supporting Giurgiu Association of Parents of People with Disabilities (ASCHF)
. Supporting the development of an Alliance of NGOs working in Giurgiu County

George Hook, broadcaster and Patron of the Charity Comber

George Hook is an Irish journalist and broadcaster. He had a career as a rugby union coach and businessman, before becoming a rugby pundit with Irish television station RTE. He hosts The Right Hook on an Irish nationwide radio station Newstalk and appeared as a coach on RTÉ's reality TV show, Celebrity Bainisteoir.

Hook has had a number of jobs including coaching London Irish, Connacht, and St. Benildus College, as well as the Americian National Team in the 1987 Rugby World Cup.

Hook appears as a rugby pundit on RTE on a regular basis and appeared as a judge on RTE celebrity dancing show 'Jigs & Reels'. He has also been parodied in the State of Us.

In 2005, he published an autobiography 'Time Added On'.

George, who had the ideas behind this CD?
Well it was my idea. I decided that I might do some kind of a joke-type CD of me singing to raise the money. I can't sing, but I though that maybe I can do something like some of the male singers that talk a lot when they are singing - they can't really sing much either.I thought that maybe I could do a bit of that.

How did the duets idea evolve?
I mentioned the idea to Bill Hughes, who was my producer for Jigs and Reels and he took the idea to another level really. We contacted people like Eleanor McEvoy and Dana, and they all became involved, they said no problem which was great. Eleanor and Paul Brady actually wrote a song for the album.

Who did you enjoy recording with most?
I have to say that Dana was great fun, and I saw a side to her that that a lot of other people don't get to see. she was great fun.. We sang Goodness Gracious Me - it was sung before by Peter Sellers.. it's a great song
I also liked working with Brian Kennedy. and the song that we did together was called 'Human', by the Killers, and that is a very emotive song..

How good was it to have Johnny Giles and Brent Pope singing with you, as opposed to established singers like Dana and Eleanor McEvoy?
Well it was great working with Brent, because our duet, you've got a friend in me, kind of reflects our relationship. I have heard that Johnny Giles is actually a good singer?
Who told you that, it would probably be the best not to comment on his singing.

Tell us about the charity Comber of which you are a Patron for?
Basically, the crux of what we do is this.. Current Romanian Government's are tackling the issue of children living in state-run institutions. Progress has been made in closing down some of the ''orphanages'' and children are now being adopted. However, minimal attention has been paid to the forgotten young adults with disabilities who, 20 years on, are the legacy of Ceausescu's brutal policies..(see additional info below for more on Nicoale Ceausescu). It is these forgotten young adults with disabilities that Comber tries to help. We try and work with the Government and close down these awful intuitions and provide a home for them.

Why did you get involved with this charity?
Well it was two things really.. Firstly, I saw the awful pictures of the Romanian babies that we broadcast over 20 years ago on our television screens and I wanted to give money.. Then, my daughter started reading a lot about the plight of the Romanian orphaned babies and their plight and she kind of got me involved

George, you have in the past accompanied volunteers from comber to Romania, can you tell us a bit about the places where the young adults were staying?
Some of the places out there are like hell on earth really. If you think about a place where there bed sheets have not been changes and there is a smell of urine all around. Not only do they not have a doctor, they do not even have a visiting doctor that comes to these places.. There is no uniform or distinction between staff and the clients/people staying there. I would defy anybody to go into one of these places and not be overwhelmed by what they see.. .. Basically, Romania entered the EU a number of years ago, and one of the reasons of how that got into the EU was to say that some of these awful were closed. What really happened was that they were not actually closed, they had just changed the names of the places where the young adults with disabilities were staying.

Comer has been able to provide a number of homes for many of these people and I know that you officially opened the first group home in September 2007, what is it like for these people to move into the homes that Comber helps provide?
It was pure joy for them. Can you imaging staying in a place for over 20 years or more and having no facilities at all. I mean, some of these people would not have even eaten a bar of chocolate until they were in their late 20's. It was an unbelievable change for just can't put it into words of what it meant for them.

The most shocking reality of Nicoale Ceausescu's regime in Romania was the discovery of thousands of children who were found locked away in some 600 notorious institutions. They were victims of Ceausescu's policy against contraception. Romanian couples were forced to have more children and when they could not afford to raise them, they left infants in state care.

A whole generation was born and raised in appalling and shocking condition till they were rescued after fall of Ceausescu regime. Many international agencies stepped in to take care of these children. But there were thousands of them. In 1990 some 86,000 children were discovered in these institutions and figures went up to 96,000 later and shockingly even in 2005 there were some 80,000 of them. In between some 10,000 children were adopted worldwide.

At present officially there are no big orphanages in Romania. One of the conditions for joining EU was to put an end to these inhuman institutions. Officials say some have found foster homes, some have left and become independent and some (most of them disabled) have been shifted to smaller better modern institutions. There are more than 2,000 street children in Bucharest alone according to Unicef figures. And these children are exposed to physical and sexual abuse. Infant mortality rate is also high in Romania.

Ceausescu's regime has ended and Romania is officially a member of EU but future of Romanian abandoned children and orphans remains uncertain. Ceausescu's government was overthrown in December 1989 military coup, and he and his wife were executed following a televised two-hour session by a kangaroo court.