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Galway broadcaster Sean O'Rourke is back – exploring the world on podcast platform

For years he had mere minutes to grill the political elite or just three questions to sum up the weekend in sport – but these days broadcaster Sean O’Rourke has more time for reflection . . . and his legion of listeners can look forward to reaping the benefits.

Because the former host of Radio One’s flagship Today programme is back on the airwaves – this time in a series of podcast interviews with a host of well-known names from the worlds of politics, current affairs, culture and sport, for starters.

And the 40- to 50-minute format allows him a luxury that the speed and urgency of morning radio didn’t – time to explore and reflect on life’s ups and downs in the public eye and away from the spotlight.

“When I was doing the Today programme or the News at One, we were always up against pressure of time. Occasionally, of course, there were longer interviews – but for the most part, there were programme elements that had to fit in and it didn’t always allow for that,” he says.

Now, however, Insights with Sean O’Rourke will allow him the space and time to chat and reflect on the world with a whole host of familiar names.

The first two podcasts dropped last week; one with former Irish rugby international Donncha O’Callaghan and the other with Minister of State at the Department of Finance Jennifer Carroll McNeill, who by coincidence is married to former Irish rugby star, Hugo McNeill.

Other names already confirmed include Social Democrats new leader Holly Cairns and Fiona Mulcahy, Medical Director of the Department of Genito Urinary Medicine and Infectious Diseases at St James’s Hospital, Dublin and Trinity College Professor,.who was named Irish Woman of the Year in 1996 for her work in the field of HIV.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

“We’ve done a really fascinating one for example with Alan English, the editor of the Sunday Independent, where he explores the change from editing a local paper (the Limerick Leader) to a national one – as well as looking at the rapidly changing face of newspapers in general and journalism as a whole,” says Sean.

He is intimately familiar with both regional and national media, of course, having cut his teeth in his adopted home city of Galway with the Connacht Tribune, and then making his name in the Irish Press and Sunday Press, alongside his time as a household name in RTÉ.

He’s been only an occasional visitor to the airwaves since his retirement from that station at the age of 65 – a situation in part down to his attendance at the infamous Golfgate night in Clifden – but this is a welcome return to the frontline.

“I love the long-form style of interview; it gives you a chance to go a little deeper and hopefully discover more of the person themselves,” he says.

“It gives me an opportunity I’ve rarely had in the past, to conduct long-form interviews with interesting people, free from the pressures of time, the daily news agenda and hitting the next commercial break.

“The format allows for a more relaxed engagement and, I would hope, a really informative and enjoyable experience for the listener.

“For me, it’s a refreshing change from what I’ve done before, and I’m delighted to be back at the microphone.”

Most of the recordings are done ‘as live’ – with just minimal editing ‘to tidy up my mistakes!’ he jokes. That gives them the freshness and immediacy, as well as allowing more time to expand.

“The choice of interviewee is a collaboration between myself and our producer Alice O’Sullivan. Of the first two, for example, Jennifer was me and Donnacha was Alice’s suggestion.”

But Sean acknowledges that this collaboration also plays to his strengths – in terms of politics, current affairs and sport.

“Most of all I hope it’s a good listen with interesting people who have interesting things to say . . . what makes people tick; what makes them who they are,” he says.

So, for the first two – released last week – Donncha O’Callaghan revealed what drove him to be the very best player on the pitch, the contrasting coaching styles of Eddie O’Sullivan, Declan Kidney and Joe Schmidt and why this current Irish team could go all the way and win the World Cup.

But he also explored the reality of taking responsibility for your financial decisions – and how that had impacted on his post-rugby security.

Jennifer Carroll McNeill discussed her harassment and the ensuing court case, her desire to see more women in Government – and why Fine Gael will not go into Government with Sinn Féin.

At least one new episode will drop each Thursday, and the plan for now is to do around 40 a year for each of the next two years – with the occasional dive into the RTÉ archives as well.

And, most of all, it finds the Portarlington-born, adopted Galwegian back doing what he does best – digging deep, asking the right questions . . .only now with more time for the answers.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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