Sarah McInerney and Cormac Ó hEadhra will team up to present RTÉ Radio 1's Drivetime programme from 4.30pm on weekday evenings as part of a reshuffle of the broadcaster's schedule.
Mary Wilson, who has presented Drivetime for the past 13 years, will move to Morning Ireland, the radio show with the highest ratings in the country, along with Áine Lawlor, another experienced presenter at Montrose.
Meanwhile, Bryan Dobson will anchor RTÉ's flagship News at One radio news programme, while Katie Hannon will present Saturday with Katie Hannon at weekends.
The changes follow on from Claire Byrne’s move at the beginning of this week to the Today show, a slot that had been filled by McInerney following the retirement of Sean O’Rourke in May.
End for Sean O’Rourke?
O'Rourke had been lined up for a return to Radio 1 – Saturday with Sean O'Rourke – but this arrangement was terminated following the controversy surrounding his attendance at the Oireachtas golf dinner in Clifden earlier this month.
Speaking to The Irish Times, Peter Woods, the head of RTÉ Radio 1, said the decision to cancel O'Rourke's show was "mutual".
“It was coming from both sides,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. What I said to him was that I couldn’t see us putting him on air without the questions being answered and how the questions were answered was up to him. It’s about judgment at the end of the day.”
Mr Woods said O’Rourke had agreed a two-year deal with RTÉ for his new show, with a review after year one. He said RTÉ and O’Rourke have parted ways for good. “I can’t see it ever again. Business is business.”
When asked if a rival station might look to poach O’Rourke, Mr Woods replied: “Absolutely. He’s a fine broadcaster but RTÉ has to do what RTÉ has to do regardless of anything else. We would always say that we’re judged by different standards but it’s right that we’re judged by different standards. The expectation of us, we welcome the expectation so we have to do the right thing.”
Mr Woods said RTÉ Radio 1 has had an “outstanding pandemic” in relation to its coverage of Covid-19. He said the changes being made to the schedule reflect years of planning in terms of introducing new voices, and changes to its production teams. “Everyone on that list has presented Late Debate. Start there, we mentor them and they move on to other programmes.”
McInerney said she was excited to take the reins of the evening news programme with Ó hEadhra.
“It’s going to be an opportunity to do something a bit different,” she said. “There’s a different sound with the two of us on. I think we think very similarly when it comes to political interviews and generally around broadcasting. I think we’re going to work really well together.”
The broadcaster also announced that from September, the RTÉ News Now app and TV channel will be reaunched as RTÉ News, and will include more prominent live content and video.
On TV, there will be 18 hours of fresh Irish drama airing this season, including a six-part series called The South Westerlies, about an Irish coastal town earmarked for a Norwegian-owned wind farm; Dead Still, a six-part mystery set in memorial photography in Victorian-era Dublin; and a six-part drama called Smother about “deeply buried secrets and their unintended consequences”.
Fair City, which has been off-air for five months, will return on September 6th, as the people of Carrigstown reflect life through Covid-19. EastEnders will also return in September.
There are also several documentaries scheduled to air on a variety of topics including the housing crisis, the life and legacy of broadcaster Marian Finucane, and a discussion on how the nation feels after six months of Covid-19.