A friend asked me recently how retirement was going. “Swimmingly,” – I responded but, of course, the truth is a little more complicated.

After working as a reporter and a news correspondent on RTÉ for 28 years, I stood down from the national broadcaster in June 2021. It was an emotional decision – turning my back on the glamorous lifestyle and daily diet of the midlands floods, murder, death and destruction and focusing a little more on the important things in life back with my own family.

“You might try to get to know your children before they head to college,” was Angela Mullooly’s most earnest advice before the decision was made to “retire”. My wife was right, of course. For the previous 14 years, I had been there every morning to bring my two sons to Ballyleague National School in Co Roscommon, but I was never there when they came home. I never once picked them up from primary school. I never heard a direct word from their lips about the challenges of their day. I was rarely there for football matches or sporting occasions in the evening and I was even less involved in bedtime stories and the other important rituals that are supposed to go with the parenthood rule book.

Nursing home

Instead, I was outside a nursing home in Stradbally, Co Laois where another 11 people had tragically died from COVID-19. I was sitting in the car outside Tullamore Garda station waiting for the local detectives to charge somebody with the murder of a child or I was asking people beside a burning building in Edgeworthstown, Co Longford how they were going to make a living the following day when the flames went out.

The truth is, the pandemic was the last straw. I was severely affected by the groundhog-day ritual of reporting death and illness in so many communities. When RTÉ opened a voluntary redundancy scheme, I jumped and exited – long before any other controversy hit the national broadcaster (and on much more modest terms than others who left after me, I can assure you).


I didn’t actually fully retire from work. Having gone back to university in 2018, I used my shiny new degree in community enterprise to take up a new post at Roscommon Leader Partnership. There, I have worked from 9 to 5 for almost three years in some of the most satisfying duties of my career – talking to older people and refugees about social inclusion, the problems of isolation, poverty and helping communities start social enterprises and rebuild after the trauma of COVID.

I have also had the opportunity to bond with my two sons for the first time. Football trips to Portugal, Greece, Scotland and Manchester have helped. The Republic of Ireland team results may have been traumatic, but the atmosphere has been electric on almost all of these occasions. I think we can all say we know a lot more about each other now as we face the next chapter in our lives.

My oldest son sits the Leaving Cert this year, but the world he enters into is a very different place to the one I inherited all those years ago.

New Columnist Ciaran Mullooly for ICL. \ Brendan Lynch

Culling the national herd because of farting cows was not exactly a priority for Dan and Mollie Mullooly when their third son was born in 1966. Taking a glamping holiday along the Shannon would have been completely unheard of and getting the county council to give them a small loan of £2,000 pounds to help build a new house and get away from the thatched cottage where we lived was the monetary challenge of those days.

Much of my voluntary and professional work nowadays is dealing with the changing face of the Midlands economy. The end of peat harvesting has stripped the region of one of the highest paying employers in Ireland. Most people don’t realise, but Bord na Mona once paid individual workers as much as £1,800 per week in high season. Those wages will never be seen again and finding replacement employment opportunities in tourism and elsewhere will be extremely challenging.

In this new column, I plan to write about some of the ordinary, every-day challenges of life in Ireland in 2024. I will tell you about my hazardous relationship with new technology, the reality of trying to find a GP and you will read about some of the characters I have met since swapping my Friday morning news meetings for a chat over prostates and headage payments with an active age group.

A clarification to finish: I have now left RTÉ. I no longer work there. This will come as a surprise to the lady who met me at the lift in Liffey Valley. “We love your work,” she assured me gushingly, someplace between the first and second floor, “especially the wink you used to do at the end of the weather forecast!” The price of fame weighs heavily on these shoulders.

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