RTÉ's Q&A ends tonight


Flagship RTÉ current affairs programme Questions and Answers is preparing to come to an end tonight after 23 years on the air.

RTÉ has said the decision was in view of presenter John Bowman's other commitments and not related to cutbacks at the station. He has been contracted to write a history of RTÉ television for its 50th anniversary in 2011, and will also be presenting a series of documentaries.

Tonight's final programme will feature an interview with Taoiseach Brian Cowen as well as three separate panels dominated by senior politicians.

The first panel will feature Minister for Health Mary Harney, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte, tax lawyer Suzanne Kelly, and Senator David Norris.

The second panel will feature Irish Timescolumnist and writer John Waters, former Progressive Democrat minister Liz O'Donnell, Fergus Finlay, former chef-de-cabinet of the Irish Labour Party and current chief executive of Barnardos, solicitor Catherine Ghent, and vice president of Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald.

Green party leader and Minister for the Environment John Gormley, Noel Whelan, barrister and political commentator, MEP Mairéad McGuinness, editor of the Irish Daily StarGer Colleran and Eddie Hobbs will be on the third panel.

RTÉ has decided to end the series with Bowman's departure from it, rather than replace him. "Given John's central importance to its success, RTÉ has decided it will not continue the series," RTÉ director-general Cathal Goan said in a statement in March. He described the programme, which is the second longest running series on RTÉ, as "an integral part of the national conversation for over 20 years".

Bowman has presented the show since October 1988, when he signed up for one season. He said he never envisaged it would run for so long. It had been presented before Bowman's tenure by Olivia O'Leary since its first broadcast in November 1986.

Bowman said he agreed with RTÉ's decision on the timing of the change. He said it was a privilege to present the show, and attributed its success to the production team. "I concluded some time ago that once I had completed 20 years, it would be time to concentrate on my other interests within television," he said in a statement.

The programme will be replaced by a political current affairs show with public participation in the same Monday time slot, RTÉ confirmed.