Door is open for Seán O’Rourke’s return to RTÉ, but there are mixed views

Broadcaster says he wants to be ‘back on air’ as Golfgate controversy brought to a close

RTÉ has left the door open for Seán O’Rourke to return to broadcasting there in some form in the future but has made no definite commitment as yet.

In a response to Mr O’Rourke’s comments on Thursday evening that he “would like to be back on air”, a spokesman repeated on Friday what RTÉ director general Dee Forbes said about the matter at the end of 2020.

“Seán is a tremendous broadcaster who had a big impact during his time with RTÉ . . . if opportunities present themselves, RTÉ will, of course, consider them. This remains the case.”

Privately, there are mixed views among former RTÉ colleagues to whom The Irish Times spoke on Friday. With all speaking on the basis of anonymity, there was a common view that he would return in some form over the next year – not on a daily or weekly show, but hosting a one-off series on TV or radio.


However, one former colleague expressed a view that because of the passage of time, it might be difficult to find a suitable vehicle for him. Others said the conclusion of the court case over the Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in August 2020 had paved the way for negotiations to begin in earnest.

Ms Forbes’s comments on the matter were made five months after the event in Clifden, Co Galway which gave rise to the so-called Golfgate controversy. While Mr O’Rourke had no involvement in the case, the fact that the charges against the organisers of the event were dismissed was being seen by some as a natural starting point in terms of rebuilding his relationship with RTÉ.


Mr O’Rourke was a guest at the two-day event and had played golf as well as attending the dinner and presentation.

He was one of the 81 guests and members who attended the dinner event with the party split into two groups, divided by a floor-to-ceiling partition. At Galway District Court on Thursday, Judge Mary Fahy ruled there had been two separate events when dismissing charges for organising an event in breach of Covid legislation against Independent TD Noel Grealish, former senator Donie Cassidy and two Clifden hoteliers, John and James Sweeney.

After the case concluded, Mr O’Rourke expressed a desire to return to broadcasting with RTÉ.

Speaking to The Irish Times after the conclusion of the case, Mr O’Rourke said the outcome was a relief to everybody who attended the event in Clifden in August 2020.

Mr O’Rourke was one of the guests invited to the two-day event in Connemara, and had recently retired from RTÉ at the time. On foot of the controversy the broadcaster decided not to proceed with a new contract for Mr O’Rourke due to run from 2020.

“I followed the trial closely and the outcome is a relief not just to the defendants but to everyone who attended on the assurance that it complied with the rules,” he said.

“The aftermath was traumatic for me but many thousands of people suffered far more than I did from the pandemic.”

He said the atmosphere in the State was febrile at the time. “I lost a good contract to resume the work I love. That had a big effect on me and my family. What happened happened and I’m glad the case is over.

“I would like to go back on air. I have good relations with many people in RTÉ and I am hopeful that a way will be found for me to work again with RTÉ on radio and television,” he said.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times