Today With Sean O Rourke Thursday 19 December 2013

Today with Sean O'Rourke

Today with Sean O'Rourke

The mid-morning current affairs magazine with the stories of the day, sharp analysis, sports coverage, in-depth features and consumer interest.



Yesterday evening, the weather blew the roof off Kent Station in Cork and around the country, AA Roadwatch is advising of very dangerous conditions nationwide with heavy snow reported in counties Sligo, Laois and Mayo.

Gardaí in the midlands have urged motorists to take extreme care on roads in the midlands after heavy snow falls in parts of Laois and Offaly and more tree falls in Longford and Westmeath overnight.


Sean spoke with Ralph Riegal of the Irish Examiner; Pat Clarke of Met Eireann and Arwen Foley of AA Roadwatch

Public Accounts Committee

Public Accounts Committee

The latest HSE audit figures of voluntary hospitals and disability organisations will be discussed at a meeting of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee today, and will put the controversial top-ups issue back under the spotlight.

Sean was joined by Martin Wall, Industry Correspondent with the Irish Times; Kieran O'Donnell, Fine Gael TD and Fionnan Sheahan of the Irish Independent

Last Statements

Last Statements

In 2012, there were 682 confirmed executions recorded in 21 countries worldwide, according to Amnesty International. 43 of those were in the US.

My next guest has been studying last statements from death row in Texas for the past 10 years in an effort to understand better the psychological state of prisoners immediately prior to execution, looking at the final statements of inmates just before they are put to death.

Brendan Kelly is Senior Lecturer in Psychiatry and Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Adult Psychiatry in UCD.

Christmas Books

Christmas Books

The quiet days that follow Christmas provide the perfect opportunity for the readers amongst us to get stuck into a good book – preferably one that has been received as a present.

Sean was joined in studio now by two literary enthusiasts who can provide some suggestions for the titles you might consider buying for the bookworms in the family.

They were broadcaster, Sinead Gleeson and John Boland of The Irish Independent.

Books for Christmas


The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Thing about December by Donal Ryan

A Girl is a Half Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

Shall We Gather at the River? by Peter Murphy

Malarkey by Anakana Schofield

The Guts by Roddy Doyle

Short Stories

The House on Parkgate Street by Christine Dwyer Hickey


Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution – From The Sopranos to The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin

Moments that Made the Movies by David Thomson

The Outnumbered Poet by Dennis O’Driscoll


The Brave Beast by Chris Judge


Come Here To Me! Dublin’s Other History by Sam McGrath, Donal Fallon and Ciarán Murray


Slow Train to Switzerland

Slow Train to Switzerland

by Diccon Bewes (Nicholas Brealey Publishing)

In 1863, the pioneering travel agent Thomas Cook took a group of British tourists on the first package holiday to Switzerland. One of them, a jolly young woman called Miss Jemima Morrell, kept a diary and 150 years later, English author Diccon Bewes set off on a three week trip to follow their itinerary, stay in the same places and discover how much has or hasn’t changed along the way from London to Lucerne.

Slow Train to Switzerland is an account of both trips and a revealing look at the early days of tourism and how adventurous those early tourists were from sidestepping crevasses while hiking on glaciers in Victorian petticoats to enduring 18 hour days and no toilets on trains. It’s also a story of how a nostalgic tour surprised an ex-pat author by revealing a very different Switzerland from the present with an unexpected personal twist.



In the midst of all the happiness and celebration of Christmas, it is a time of year which can also be very lonely, especially for elderly people living alone.  The organization - ALONE - was founded in 1977 by a Dublin fireman, Willie Bermingham.  Today the organization has built two housing complexes and its volunteers befriend the elderly.

This week Alone will deliver hundreds of hampers to people all over the Dublin catchment area. Valerie Cox went out with the Alone volunteers and the first doorbell they rang was that of 86 year old Norah who lives in the Inner city.


Things to do with your kids at Christmas

Things to do with your kids at Christmas

Christmas is a time for children and no doubt many of you will have kids that have plenty to keep them amused over the Christmas period. However, if you’re looking to get them out of the house or away from that Playstation, then we have just the thing.

Sean was joined by Jill Holtz of who has rounded up loads of fun things for kids and families to do over the Christmas Break. 

Santa will be saying hello in Wexford at Secret Valley Wildlife Park in Clonroche until December 22nd. Ride a Christmas tractor to Santa’s cottage to meet Santa and his Fairy, cooking with Mrs Claus, adventure hunts and roasted marshmallows and meet the animals too.  They have 2 packages, Child: €14, Adult: €7.50 and a shorter programme of activities costing Child: €6.50, Adult: €7.50

Visit Santa at Boyle Model Railway in Co. Roscommon where you will see the under construction railway with working & moving trains, a special Thomas the Tank Engine train track will be on display. Meet Santa who will have a little gift for all children. Boyle Model Railway began construction earlier this year with local volunteers and Boyle Mens Shed. When finished (hopefully Easter 2014) it will be the largest displayed model railway in Ireland. The suggested donation is €5 per child. No booking necessary.


Winter Wonderland at Athenry Heritage Centre, Co. Galway. Take a stroll down Peppermint Lane and enjoy the scrumptious bakery activity with the Queen of Dough. Meet Snow White in her magical garden cottage and make your very own herb basket. Then plant your spring bulbs and watch them grow! Get creative with the fantastic Arts & Crafts activities and there’s face painting with our very own Fairy Godmother. Discover the toys in the Nutcracker Suite and meet Mrs. Claus by the enchanting Glass Slipper. Santa is waiting in his Nordic house with a gift for all the children. Open 21st-22nd 12:00pm-5:30pm, €15 per child, €10 for under 3's, €2 Adults NB no card facilities


Visit Santa and his real live deer Dancer & Prancer at Ireland’s Lapland at Glendeer Pet FarmNear Athlone, Co. Westmeath. The children get their little bag of food to feed the animals as they make their way over to see Santa, have a chat with him & receive a gift & adults can treat themselves to fresh coffee/cappucino & homemade snacks in the warm surroundings of the cosy coffee shop. - Great place to break the journey with kids if travelling Dublin-Galway, or driving North or South this Christmas.


Santa will be at Stonehall Visitor Farm & Wildlife Park, Co. Limerick until December 22nd, you can meet Rudolph and the other Reindeers before their big adventure on Christmas Eve, play in the indoor area and meet all the other animals too. The cost is €20 per child which includes a present from Santa and €7 per adult which includes tea/coffee/mulled wine and mince pies.


Bunratty Castle & Folk Parkhave a great experience this year with their winter wonderland, the village street is decked with holly, and festooned with fairy lights. There are puppet shows, Folk Park story teller recalling colourful tales of Christmas long ago, and Christmas Characters wandering about (you might even bump into Scrooge!). Call in to see Mrs Claus in her kitchen as she prepares for Santa’s trip, and take a ride on their new Thomas the Tank Engine train. NB Santa booked out but you can still enjoy the visit until Dec 23rd. A family costs €30 for 2 Adults and up to 6 children until 4.30p.m. After 4.30 p.m. there is rate of €15.00 for 2 Adults and 4 children.  A single child costs €3.50.

(For parents looking for a relaxed evening out and a break from the Christmas rush, Bunratty also has places on their Christmas evenings which include a mulled wine reception and a 3 course meal with wine.)


Meet the Animals at Powerscourt in County Wicklow until Dec 23rd 10am to 5pm: Santa’s deer, rabbits, guinea pigs and donkeys.  And best of all it is FREE OF CHARGE. Santa is at Avoca at Powerscourt also until the 23rd.


Santa is also stopping by The Winter Wonderland at Westport House until Christmas Eve. With magical storytelling and sing-songs by the fireside in the Drawing Room with Mrs Claus, to festive face painting with their cool as ice snow(wo)man and  Little Drummer Boy workshops. Kids can paint their own Christmas tree decoration to hang proudly on their tree at home or to give as a gift to someone special this Christmas, and then there’s a ride on the Westport House Express train They will also donate €1 to the Mayo Roscommon Hospice wishes on their Christmas Wish Tree. Tickets are priced at €10 for infants under 2 €20 for children aged 2 up, and €10 for adults.  Babies under 1 year go free for their first Christmas. Pre-booking is essential.


A more unusual Santa experience is Green Santa in Narnia at Belvedere House in Co. Westmeath. This goes back to when Father Christmas wore Green robes in Victorian Times. Modern day Santa Claus is red because of association with Coca Cola’s 1930’s advertising campaigns and from Thomas Nast’s earlier cartoons, but before he was Red he was Green. Children will visit Green Santa in his magical grotto after entering another world through the enchanted Narnia Wardrobe and will receive natural gifts. Green Santa will help the children pot up seasonal native Irish trees which the children can plant in their gardens at home. This is the fourth year of Green Santa who has already distributed nearly 6,000 trees. Prices are: 1 Child €12, Each additional child €10. Under 3’s and adults accompanying other children go free. This also includes entry to the House Gardens and Park.


A magical experience for both young and old is guaranteed at Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park, Rathangan, Co. Kildare, which is transformed into a Winter Wonderland with a Train Trip through the woods and lakes, an Illuminated walkway through the woodland with an illuminated Fairy Bower to visit, live animals and of course Santa who will be there for visitors at 10am on weekends and 2pm during the week and he stays until 6pm. No booking is required for families but they do advise turning up early at weekends. Until Dec 23rd. €18 per child with 1 adult free per child includes gift. €9 per extra adult / teenager 

There are some great events on around the country listed on our Christmas Events page. Here are some fun events and activities we picked out:


If you’re in Cork, Glow, A Cork Christmas Celebration, has a Crafts Fair, Food Market, a 30 metre Ferris Wheel, vintage carousel and Tir na Nollaig, the magical ‘faery’ village which is FREE of charge at Bishop Lucey Park. Larger than life toy soldiers will guard a fort which hides this enchanted village. As visitors step into the Christmas fairytale, they will be greeted by magical faery inhabitants as they wander around a faery woodland where the Spirit of Christmas lives. The woodland will be filled with faery houses, magical forest creatures, a Christmas throne and sleigh, a magical well, and the charm of childhood imagination brought to life. Open from 4-8pm 22nd & 23rd, the journey through the park will take approximately 20 minutes.


Highly recommended is Pictiúr at IMMA in Dublin, an exhibition of 21 of Ireland’s leading children’s book illustrators including Oliver Jeffers, Anita Jeram, PJ Lynch, Niamh Sharkey. Alongside the artwork are videos exploring the world and practice of many of the illustrators, supplementary material such as sketchbooks and 3-dimensional works with a family friendly reading area for those who want to enjoy the featured books. Christmas Opening Hours are 23 – 26 December: Closed, 27 – 29 December: 12noon – 5.30pm, 30 December: Closed, 31 December and 1 January: 12noon – 5.30pm, Opening hours as normal from 2 January 2014. Last Admission 5.15pm. Admission is Free


At Museum of Country Life, Co. Mayo on Friday 03 January: 11am-1pm. Free Drop-in Activity. Knitting Circle: Spring Out of Winter!  Adults and children 7yrs+ Join the museum knitters to make your own spring time knits and crochet. Start a new project or get help finishing an old one! Exchange ideas and tips. Learn a new skill for life. Beginners welcome. No booking required.


At the National Museum of Ireland Decorative Arts & History, Collins Barracks on Sunday 5th Jan 2014, 3pm - 4pm you can see The Armagh Rhymers: The Mummer's Play. The Armagh Rhymers are one of Ireland's most celebrated folk theatre ensembles, and they're back at Collins Barracks to give voice to a tradition that dates back 2,500 years. Through music and slapstick comedy the Rhymers bring St Patrick, Dick Darby, Slick Slack and others outlandishly to life. No booking required, places allocated on a first come basis one hour before event begins. All Ages. 


And you can become an Artefact Detective! at NMI-Archaeology, Kildare Street on Friday 3rd January 2014 and Saturday 4th January 2014, 2.30-3.30pm. Drop-in, learn how to think like an archaeologist for an afternoon and try to solve the puzzle of some mystery objects! Located in the Learning Resource Room, first floor. No booking required. Not wheelchair accessible. Drop-in Activity. Ages 6+


Lough Key Forest Park in Roscommon has a variety of craft and baking classes over the holiday period as well as a Treasure Hunt for the family on January 2nd and 3rd. To get everybody out in the fresh air after Christmas.  Limited places so be sure to book early, typical cost €5 per child for activities and €10 per family for the treasure hunt. The Boda Borg, Adventure Play Kingdom and Lough Key Experience will also be open as normal.

For Ice Skating around the Country, check out our roundup of ice skating. For example, Galway City on Ice,Dundrum on Ice,Swords on Ice all have family tickets from €35 with penguins for the smaller kids.


Catch the end of Bless the Beasts at The Ark in Dublin: it runs until Dec 28 and is a wonderful collection of animal sculptures with books, poetry, activity sheets, quizzes, and drawing projects to enjoy. Also at the Ark, Annabelle’s Star comes highly recommended, set to beautiful original music and suitable for children aged 4 to 8 years and lasts 45 mins. It runs weekends up to December 30th. €40 for a family of 4.


Learning from Art at The Source in Thurles is a FREE exhibition of children’s art work inspired by The National Gallery of Ireland’s collection with work of primary and post primary students from 32 counties. The children interpreted a picture from the National Gallery in the form of a poem, a piece of prose or an artwork.


Fun Pantos outside Dublin



Shopping in The LIberties in Dublin

Paddy O'Gorman met some people doing their Christmas shopping.



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Presenter: Sean O'Rourke


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