RTE’s Sean O’Rourke has just announced he will retire from the broadcaster on Friday, May 8, having started with the company in the early 1980’s.
The journalist, who turns 65 in May, dropped the bombshell this morning at the end of his popular eponymous show with a prepared statement.
“And now for some personal news. For nearly seven years now, it’s been my great privilege to sit in the best current affairs chair in Irish broadcasting. But nothing is forever.
“I’m going to be 65 in May and that will be as good a moment as any to end the great adventure of Today SOR. I’ve had an absolute blast; daily interviews about the daily stories of the day, debates, elections, referendum and a memorable encounter with Donald Trump in Doonbeg…some great music and song and the odd bit of hand to hand combat in studio; all of it with a light dusting of fun, as we promised you at the very start.
“And all made possible by really hard-working and talented colleagues to whom I will be forever grateful. They really are marvellous public servants.”
He added: “So that’s it. But the show will go on thanks to those wonderful colleagues.”
The broadcaster has presented the top 10 rating show since taking over as the new presenter in 2013.
His departure will mark the end of over 25 years as a presenter of daily news and current affairs on RTÉ Radio 1.
The former News at One and The Week in Politics presenter is a multiple winner of the PPI News Journalist of the Year Award, and grew listeners to the flagship morning show to a high of 354,000 listeners each day.
O'Rourke will finish on his show Today with Sean O'Rourke on Friday May 8.
Ronan Collins, who broadcasts directly after O'Rourke, then played the Edith Piaf classic ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’ by way of tribute.
He added that texts and emails were already pouring in from RTE Radio One listeners in response to Sean’s retirement news.
His RTE Radio One colleague Ryan Tubridy led the tributes to the father-of-six today and said that he will be dearly missed as Sean is one of a kind.
“My message is that we are down a good one on the airwaves with Sean’s impending departure,” he told Independent.ie.
“He is one of those people who are a pleasure to meet crossing the car park in the morning on the way into the office and having the chat about what’s happening behind the scenes, whether it’s Leinster House or RTE.
“He’s got a wise head on his shoulders and he’s got a great breath of knowledge. He can tell you the count of an election from Ballaghaderreen in 1981 without having to Google anything.
“We will miss that sense of intellectual hard-drive in the place because there aren’t many like him around. So on a personal and a professional level, I want to wish him the very best because his family’s gain in the back-garden is our family’s loss in the radio centre. So we wish him every inch of luck that he deserves because he’s just a great, great guy.”
Tom McGuire, head of RTÉ Radio One, said: “Sean O’Rourke has been at the core of the Radio 1 schedule throughout his broadcasting career. A peerless journalist, particularly in current affairs and news.
“To coin one of his own phrases, his move from News at One to Today with Sean O’Rourke proved that not only could he play ‘senior hurling’ but senior football as well. A true dual star.”
Bryan Dobson said that he was “truly irreplaceable” when it comes to broadcasters.
“Sean O’Rourke is most definitely one of that select group,” he said.
RTE Director General Dee Forbes said that Sean’s contribution to Irish journalism is “hugely significant.”
“From his start at the Connacht Tribune in 1973 to his latest years at the helm of our key morning current affairs radio programme, Sean has navigated and dissected the stories of the day with a rigour, tenacity, clarity and drive that is unmatched,” she said
“His love for radio and for news, his passion for sport and reading, meant that he was an enormously well-rounded presenter too; informed, interested, and interesting.”
Joe Duffy said of Sean: “If RTE, with its brilliant public service ethos, its intelligence, fearless forensic reporting and good humour is embodied in one broadcaster, it is the legendary Sean O'Rourke. Wishing him and his family well as he announces his retirement.”
Tributes also came from broadcasters in rival organisations, including Today FM’s Matt Cooper.
He said that Sean was “not just a great broadcaster but fantastic company too.”
“A great story teller and very funny - best wishes to him in retirement,” he added.
Anton Savage, who contributes a motoring segment on his show, said he was “very sorry” to see him retiring. “Remarkable broadcaster and a thorough gentleman,” he said.
RTE’s Rachel English said the “very best of luck to my brilliant friend and colleague Sean O'Rourke.”
“I've been very lucky to spend so much time working with him, especially on all those election count shows where we kept going until 3 or 4 am. Morning radio won't be the same,” she said.
Labour leader Alan Kelly described him as “one of Ireland's finest broadcasters - tenacious in a way that always kept listeners and those he was interviewing on the edge of our seats.
“A very decent and friendly man off air as well. best wishes to him in his next move.”
Speculation will now turn towards his possible replacement with Miriam O'Callaghan one of the favourites to step in, having filled in for him on a regularly basis in recent times.