RTÉ cancels future plans with broadcaster Sean O’Rourke over golfing dinner

Former high-profile presenter says he has to be accountable for his actions

RTÉ has cancelled its future plans with broadcaster Sean O'Rourke as a result of the Oireachtas golf dinner in Clifden.

Mr O’Rourke was one of the more than 80 guests at the event, the fallout from which has has led to the resignation of Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary as minister for agriculture, Fine Gael Senator Jerry Buttimer as Seanad leas-cathaoirleach and several senators losing their party whips.

There was speculation that he was going to take the Radio 1 slot currently occupied by the Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra programme which goes out between 1pm and 2pm.

In a statement, RTÉ said it had mutually agreed with Mr O’Rourke that they would not proceed with future projects together.

The announcement came ahead of RTÉ’s autumn radio schedule launch which is due to take place on Wednesday.

Mr O’Rourke acknowledged that having spent many years presenting programmes in which public figures were being called to account, he too would have to account for having attended the dinner potentially in breach of public health Covid-19 guidelines.

“The right course is to set aside our plans for my return to the airwaves,” he said.

In a joint statement RTÉ said it wanted to thank Mr O’Rourke for his “enormous contribution” to broadcasting and wished him well with his future plans.

The announcement brings to an end Mr O’Rourke’s 31-year career as one of RTÉ’s highest profile current affairs broadcasters.

He left the Irish Press in 1989 for RTÉ News and Current Affairs, where he worked for two decades on shows such as Morning Ireland, This Week, Today Tonight, Prime Time and The Week in Politics.

He succeeded Pat Kenny in 2013 with his own Today with Sean O’Rourke programme which retained a huge audience for RTÉ. His role was taken by Sarah McInerney on a part-time basis and she has been replaced by Claire Byrne who started on Monday.

When he left the programme in May, he suggested that he was only “kind of retiring” and that he would be involved in RTÉ with other projects.

Mr O’Rourke broke his silence about his attendance at the golf society dinner in a series of tweets on Friday last in which he stated he had no defence for being there.

He added: “I should not have been at the dinner in Clifden on Wednesday. I was invited to play golf and I really didn’t consider it beyond that, other than to assume whatever was happening would be acceptable from a public health point of view.

“I very much regret the lack of thought and interrogation on my part, and I apologise unreservedly for it.”

He addressed his apology to “those of you wondering what if I was still asking the questions rather than facing them”.

Mr O’Rourke retired from RTÉ earlier this year. He had considered responding to questions on his attendance at the controversial dinner on RTÉ Radio 1, but decided against going on air.