The Irish Times Winter Nights festival: Everything you need to know

Irish Times Winter Nights Festival 2021.
Gabriel Byrne, Sonia O’Sullivan, Micheál Martin, Nicola Sturgeon, Emma Dabiri, Dara McAnulty, Blindboy and more will appear at the online festival from January 25th.

The Irish Times Winter Nights online festival takes place in January, with a host of high-profile guests including writers, politicians, actors and activists in conversation with Irish Times journalists.

Supported by Peugeot, the festival takes place over five evenings from Monday, January 25th to Friday, January 29th.

The final line-up has now been revealed: guests for the festival’s opening night are podcaster and author Blindboy of the Rubberbandits and Olympic medal-winning athlete Sonia O’Sullivan.

It also includes Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon, in conversation with Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole.

Among the other guests taking part are actor Gabriel Byrne, comedian Dara Ó Briain, writer Dara McAnulty, EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness and Irish-Nigerian academic and writer Emma Dabiri.

The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, is also on the bill. He will be talking about these challenging times for the country with Irish Times Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray.

International guests featuring in the festival include CNN’s Washington-based political pundit John King and psychologist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger.

Among the hosts are Irish Times writers and editors Pat Leahy, Kathy Sheridan, Hilary Fannin, Hugh Linehan, Sorcha Pollak and Patrick Freyne who will be in conversation with Ross O’Carroll-Kelly creator Paul Howard.

The Winter Nights Festival follows on from Summer Nights, the Irish Times festival that took place last July. The full programme, with up to three live events on each of the five nights, is below.

How to get tickets

For tickets, go to irishtimes.com/winternights. A single ticket costing €50 admits ticket holders to all events at the festival. Irish Times digital subscribers can purchase tickets at the discounted price of €25. Just make sure you are signed in before purchase, and the discount will be applied automatically.

The Irish Times Winter Nights Festival programme

Monday, January 25th

6.30pm-7.30pm
The gospel according to Blindboy
With Blindboy and Hilary Fannin
Our opening event of the festival features podcaster, author and Limerick man Blindboy of The Rubberbandits in conversation with Irish Times columnist Hilary Fannin. They’ll discuss his life, his politics, his podcast and his acclaimed short stories.

Author and podcaster Blindboy Boatclub of The Rubberbandits. Photograph: Alan Place
Author and podcaster Blindboy Boatclub of The Rubberbandits. Photograph: Alan Place

7.45pm-8.45pm
Going the distance
With Sonia O'Sullivan and Joanne O'Riordan  
Gold medal winning, world beating athlete Sonia O’Sullivan joins us from Melbourne to talk about her sporting life. She is in conversation with fellow Corkonian and Irish Times sports columnist Joanne O’Riordan.

Sonia O’Sullivan after receiving the Irish Life Health Hall of Fame award on the occasion of her 50th birthday, November 28th, 2019. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/ INPHO
Sonia O’Sullivan after receiving the Irish Life Health Hall of Fame award on the occasion of her 50th birthday, November 28th, 2019. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Tuesday, January 26th

6.30pm-7.30pm
OK, let’s do their stupid idea
With Paul Howard and Patrick Freyne
Ross O’Carroll-Kelly creator Paul Howard and Irish Times features writer Patrick Freyne are two of the funniest people writing in Ireland today. They talk to each other about the sometimes underestimated art of making people laugh.

Paul Howard stands next to a statue of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly in Dublin. Photograph Nick Bradshaw
Paul Howard stands next to a statue of Ross O’Carroll-Kelly in Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

7.45pm-8.45pm
Lessons for living
With Edith Eger and Róisín Ingle
In conversation with Irish Times columnist Róisín Ingle, celebrated psychologist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger explores ways to change the thoughts and behaviours that can keep us prisoners of our past.

Author, celebrated psychologist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger
Author, celebrated psychologist and Holocaust survivor Edith Eger

Wednesday, January 27th

6.30pm-7.30pm
Yes, commissioner
With Mairead McGuinness and Kathy Sheridan
Co Louth born MEP Mairead McGuinness has been European Commissioner for Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Capital Markets Union since October 2020. She tells Irish Times columnist Kathy Sheridan about life since landing the big job.

Mairead McGuinness, EU Commissioner with responsibility for banking and financial services. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/ EPA
Mairead McGuinness, EU Commissioner with responsibility for banking and financial services. Photograph: Stephanie Lecocq/ EPA

7.45pm-8.45pm
What white people can do next
With Emma Dabiri and Sorcha Pollak
Irish-Nigerian author and academic Emma Dabiri explores how, in the fight against racism, white people can move from allyship to coalition. She is in conversation with Sorcha Pollak, Irish Times journalist and writer of New to the Parish.

Irish-Nigerian writer, academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri. Photograph: Olivia Harris
Irish-Nigerian writer, academic and broadcaster Emma Dabiri. Photograph: Olivia Harris

9pm-10pm
Two men in a Zoom
With Dara Ó Briain and Pat Leahy
Comedian Dara O’Briain and Irish Times Political Editor Pat Leahy met and became friends as student debaters in UCD. They quiz each other about friendship, comedy, middle-aged angst, politics, space and much more.

Comedian Dara O’Briain. Photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times
Comedian Dara O’Briain. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Thursday, January 28th

6.30pm-7.30pm
Beyond Brexit
With Nicola Sturgeon and Fintan O’Toole
Scotland’s first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon talks to Orwell prize winning Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole about Brexit, Scottish independence and the state of the union.

Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images
Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/AFP/Getty Images

7.45pm-8.45pm
Leading through lockdowns
With Micheál Martin and Jennifer Bray
Micheál Martin became Taoiseach at a time of unprecedented challenges. Irish Times Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray asks him about leadership in a pandemic and his hopes for Ireland in 2021.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin will be in conversation with Irish Times Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/ The Irish Times
Taoiseach Micheál Martin will be in conversation with Irish Times Political Correspondent Jennifer Bray. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

9pm-10pm
Is everything going to be alright?
With Prof Luke O’Neill and Jennifer O’Connell
Professor of biochemistry at Trinity College Dublin, Luke O’Neill, was one of the leading scientific voices to emerge in 2020. Irish Times columnist Jennifer O’Connell picks his considerable brain about the light at the end of our pandemic tunnel.

Prof Luke O’Neill, professor of Biochemistry at Centre for Bioengineering Trinity College Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times/File
Prof Luke O’Neill, professor of Biochemistry at the Centre for Bioengineering at Trinity College Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times/File

Friday, January 29th

6.30pm-7.30pm
A walk on the wild side
With Dara McAnulty
“When young autistic people are nurtured, miraculous things can happen,” says 16-year-old Dara McAnulty, award-winning author of Diary of a Young Naturalist. The Co Down teenager explores his passion for the natural world, in the company of Irish Times journalist Freya McClements.

Dara McAnulty (16), from Co Down, who won the Wainright Prize for nature writing for Dairy of a Young Naturalist
Dara McAnulty (16), from Co Down, who won the Wainright Prize for nature writing for Diary of a Young Naturalist

7.45pm-8.45pm
Talking with ghosts
With Gabriel Byrne and Hugh Linehan
Dubliner Gabriel Byrne was one of Ireland’s first movie stars. He talks to Irish Times Arts and Culture Editor Hugh Linehan about his life and times from The Riordans to The Usual Suspects to publishing an acclaimed memoir at 70.

Actor Gabriel Byrne recently released his memoir, aged 70. Photograph: Larry Busacca/Getty Images
Actor Gabriel Byrne recently released his memoir, aged 70. Photograph: Larry Busacca/Getty Images

9pm-10pm
The American dream?
With CNN’s John King and Fintan O’Toole
Just days after the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, Washington-based CNN commentator John King talks to Fintan O’Toole about his Irish roots, his Magic Wall and the future of post-Trump America.

CNN Anchor John King will be in conversation with Fintan O’Toole. Photograph: David S Holloway/Getty Images
CNN Anchor John King will be in conversation with Fintan O’Toole. Photograph: David S Holloway/Getty Images

See irishtimes.com/winternights for full details.