Death of Michael O’Regan: The loss of a dear colleague

Tributes to Michael O’Regan an illustration of his standing over decades in Leinster House

It is a week tinged with great sadness for the political team in The Irish Times. We have lost our former colleague Michael O’Regan, a wonderful journalist, a decent human being, and a proud Kerryman to his core.

From 1981 until his retirement several years ago, Michael had been a stalwart of political coverage for this media organisation, as parliamentary correspondent. Tall with that distinctive head of russet hair he delivered all his pronouncements in a rich baritone with an even richer Kerry accent. It made him a one off.

Michael wrote beautifully about how he dealt with his cancer diagnosis in 2019. Bryan O’Brien’s video report that accompanied the article is worth spending a few minutes with, as it captures Michael’s personality so well.

As he said himself of how he dealt with it: “Not a bad achievement for a Kerryman of a certain age.”


He had recovered well from cancer and had been very active in his retirement, with his regular weekly Call from the Dáil slot on Radio Kerry and his frequent postings on politics and all things Kerry football on Twitter (or X), a platform on which he had built up a large following.

This writer had leant heavily on Michael only 10 days ago when doing a profile on the Healy-Raes. Michael had just been to see the play, Sive, by one of his great heroes, John B Keane in the Gaiety and was happy to talk for half an hour about the distinctive characteristics of that south Kerry family.

An illustration of his standing were the personal and warm tributes that were paid to him by all the political leaders of the State, and indeed by Kerry County Council.

The President Michael D Higgins was generous in his recollection of his relationship with Michael.

“Throughout the many years in which we met, Michael was always warm and engaging in conversation on the many topics which were for discussion. He was incredibly courteous, and a perfect judge of when an injection of the humour, upon which he drew from his proud Kerry background, was needed.”

A second term for Ursula von der Leyen?

The reappointment of a senior EU bureaucrat is normally a distant priority for most Irish people. However, the announcement yesterday by Ursula von der Leyen that she will seek a second term has the potential to create deep fault lines between the Government and the Opposition.

She is certainly a competent and able president but it is her political stance on the attack on Gaza by Israel that will cause divisions. After the Hamas atrocity of October 7th, she announced she was steadfastly standing behind Israel. However, since then, she has refused to criticise Israel for any of the horrors and terrible excesses that have occurred in Gaza over the past five months, which has resulted in the deaths of 30,000 people.

A majority of Irish people are generally very pro-EU but her stance has arguably been a factor in diminishing that support.

In his report, Pat Leahy quotes Government sources saying that the Irish Government has disagreed with Ms von der Leyen’s strongly pro-Israel line since the conflict erupted in Gaza.

But the same sources are quoted as praising her record on Brexit, on climate action, on Covid-19 and especially on Ukraine, where she has been a strong supporter of that country’s bid to become a candidate for membership of the EU, and of military support for Kyiv from EU countries.

“It would be a foolish Government that would oppose her,” said one senior source. Another senior figure confirmed the expectation that Dublin would back Ms von der Leyen.

However, the Opposition parties are strongly opposed to her reappointment. Sinn Féin’s Matt Carthy called on the Government to reject her appointment and said his party would oppose her if in government.

“The Irish Government must clearly state that they will not support the reappointment of Ursula von der Leyen. So too should all candidates contesting the European elections considering one of the first tasks of new MEPs will be to ratify the nomination for commission president.”

Labour’s Aodhán Ó Riordáin has also opposed her reappointment. “The European project was founded out of a desire to end war and secure peace. Von der Leyen’s rhetoric and actions have shown she does not represent this. She clearly has no aspirations for real peace, and this Fine Gael Government is supporting that.”

In an analysis piece, Europe Correspondent Naomi O’Leary examined von der Leyen’s chances and what she needs to do to get re-elected.

Shared Island initiative

The main issue at today’s Cabinet meeting will be a discussion on new projects for the Shared Island initiative. Jack Horgan-Jones reports that the Narrow Water Bridge, the A5 motorway and Casement Park are expected to be among the projects to benefit from new allocations under the Coalition’s cross-Border funding initiative.

Jack reports that the memo will be brought to the Government on Tuesday by Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar outlining the new initiatives, with a formal announcement to follow by all three Coalition party leaders in the afternoon.

RTÉ controversy rumbles on

There is a public clamour for RTÉ to reveal the amounts paid to senior executives who have left the organisation over the past two years. Yesterday, Minister for Media Catherine Martin met director general Kevin Bakhurst and chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh to get clarity on the circumstances of these big exit packages.

At least two, that of former director of strategy Rory Coveney and of former director of finance Richard Collins, were negotiated since Bakhurst took the top job. In several media interviews yesterday, he strongly defended his decision to allow the deals, and the confidentiality clauses that accompanied them. Coveney’s package was reported to have been €200,000, but that has not been confirmed. Figures of more than €400,000 have been reported for some of the other deals negotiated by RTÉ in recent years.

Bakhurst admitted yesterday there is little prospect of the details of exit packages paid to senior executives who have left the broadcaster over the past two years being revealed.

Best reads

Fintan O’Toole’s insightful and wry take on the hearings over the RTÉ pay controversy: When so many RTÉ witnesses fail to show up the joke’s on us

Mary Carolan reports that two further organisations have come out to ask for No votes in at least one of the March referendums on family and carers.

Olivia Kelly has been reporting on the first day of oral planning hearings into the proposed Metrolink project.



2pm: Leaders’ Questions

3.04pm: Motion: Proposed approval by Dáil Éireann of meeting of the Joint Committee on the Irish Language, Gaeltacht and the Irish-speaking Community in Galway city

3.50pm: Statements on the Second Anniversary of Russia’s Full-scale Invasion of Ukraine

5.42pm: Private Members’ Business (Sinn Féin): Motion re Paediatric Orthopaedic and Urology Services


3.15pm: Gas (Amendment) Bill 2023 – Committee Stage

4.30pm: Statements on the Situation in the Middle East (Department of Foreign Affairs)

6.15pm: Private Members’ Business: Special Measures in the Public Interest (Derrybrien Wind Farm) Bill 2023


11am: Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action. Pre-legislative scrutiny of the general scheme of the Gas Safety (Amendment) Bill 2023

2.15pm: Select Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage. Committee Stage consideration of the Planning and Development Bill 2023 with Darragh O’Brien, Minister for Housing.

3pm: Committee on Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth. Engagement with stakeholders regarding “Protection of Children in the use of Artificial Intelligence” (resumed)

3.15pm: Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. Representative associations of the Defence Forces to discuss the general scheme of the Defence (Amendment) Bill 2023.

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