RTÉ has announced changes to its coverage of political party conferences for the rest of the year, because Covid-19 restrictions oblige the events to be held virtually.

The revisions include moving the live Leader's Address from its traditional slot of 8.30pm to 5pm, but allowing qualifying parties to a five minute pre-recorded broadcast in the run-up to the Nine News on RTÉ One television.

RTÉ has said this broadcast may include elements of the Leader's Address plus other content normally used in a party political broadcast, as long as it is broadly reflective of the conference themes.

The changes also mean that there will be no live coverage on the morning of the first full day of the party conferences.

Other traditional elements of the party conference season remain unchanged, including spokespeople of qualifying parties being offered an interview on RTÉ Radio 1's Saturday with Katie Hannon programme; and on Sunday, party leaders being interviewed on RTÉ TV's The Week in Politics programme and RTÉ Radio 1's This Week programme.

In a statement, RTÉ said it examined what kind of coverage might be possible in circumstances where it is anticipated that any conference will primarily be a virtual event.

It said it believed its revised coverage is a fair and comprehensive approach that reflects the unique circumstances of 2021.

However, RTÉ added that this revised format will not be changed even if Covid-19 restrictions are eased later in the year.