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'Clifden changed the landscape': RTÉ Radio 1 controller on why SOR's return was ditched

Katie Hannon is to host a current affairs show that was to be hosted by Sean O’Rourke.

O’Rourke in an RTE studio last year.
O’Rourke in an RTE studio last year.
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

THE HEAD OF RTÉ Radio One says it was decided to give the Saturday afternoon current affairs slot to Katie Hannon and not Sean O’Rourke after the Oireachtas Golf Society controversy “changed the landscape” of the country.

O’Rourke and RTÉ released a statement on Monday saying they would not be proceeding with future plans for projects together after O’Rourke’s attendance at the dinner.

Peter Woods has confirmed that it was planned O’Rourke would return for a Saturday current affairs slot but that the show will now be going ahead with Hannon instead.

The programme essentially takes the place of Saturday with Cormac Ó hEadhra, with Ó hEadhra moving to the weekday Drivetime slot alongside Sarah McInerney, as part of a major shakeup of the station’s schedule.

Speaking as part of RTÉ’s autumn launch, Woods acknowledged that the ‘golfgate’ controversy changed everything.

“People went golfing in Clifden and changed I suppose in lots of ways the social, political, cultural and media landscape of the country.

So we had a conversation with Sean and we reached by mutual agreement Monday and over the weekend that future projects Sean might have been involved in with us weren’t going to happen.

Asked whether this amounted to projects in development being stopped or any potential future projects also being ruled out, Woods said he was speaking about the project he was aware of.

“There wasn’t a lot that I’m aware of, because I’m talking about the Saturday programme,” he said.

Which to be honest with you could have been anywhere because we hadn’t assigned, I hadn’t spoken to the producer about it, I hadn’t assigned the team to it except in my mind.

He added that Hannon was the “natural choice” to take on the show instead.

And as far as it goes with Katie Hannon, she has been doing Late Debate, she’s been filling in on other programmes before she started filling in for Marian. She’s presented Drivetime and more recently we put her last summer with Liveline and she’s done Joe’s leave last summer and this summer on Liveline. And that was a natural choice, like there was no debate about it.

Today with Claire/Sarah

Broadcasters Claire Byrne and McInerney also spoke yesterday about O’Rourke’s apology for being at the Clifden dinner.

Byrne is now the full-time replacement for O’Rourke on the mid-morning show that McInerney had been hosting over the summer after O’Rourke’s departure in May.

During McInerney’s memorable final show after the golf gate story had broken the night previously, the host suggested on air that O’Rourke was welcome to come on to explain his attendance at the dinner.

“That was a decision for Sean, I mean I can’t really comment on whether he should’ve or shouldn’t have come on,” she said of the suggestion.

That was his own decision, and I have been in touch with him since last week. Not specifically in relation to this show, just about his own career and we’ve had one or two words back and forth.

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McInerney declined to elaborate on what the pair spoke about in the private discussion but said that O’Rourke accepted in his public statement that he was wrong to attend the dinner.

Byrne also said that the Cliden dinner “should not have gone ahead” but that it is a “sensitive issue” because of her friendship with O’Rourke.

“I’m really reluctant to talk about individuals, because of the position that I hold now on the one hand, on the other hand, you know, I’ve known Sean for a long time.

He’s been through a difficult time and I don’t think anything that I will say will help his situation at the moment, and what he’s going through, so I’m going to leave that one there.

Byrne also said it would be O’Rourke’s decision if he wants to come on her show.

“I think Sean knows people would like to hear from him, but Sean made his statement and if he wants to come on, he’ll come on himself without me having to say it publicly.”

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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