Farran native Brian O’Donovan is in Washington for RTÉ and relishes the challenges posed by the new US administration, he tells reporter Kieran O’Mahony
LIFE is anything but dull on Capitol Hill for RTÉ’s new Washington correspondent, Farran native Brian O’Donovan.
One month into his new job and Brian has already found himself in the thick of it all, even doing a preview of the Golden Globes on his very first day.
Not one to be fazed by technical issues, Brian was a true professional when, during one of his first live reports to the Nine O’Clock News about Oprah Winfrey and the Golden Globes, there was a major hiccup.
The background to his report – which should have had the White House on screen, flicked to Netflix instead. Brian carried on regardless, despite the gremlins.
These are interesting times indeed for any reporter based in Washington, but especially for Brian, as he has always been fascinated by American politics and culture. In short, this is his dream job.
‘I’m very lucky to be here covering the US at such an interesting time, and it’s been very busy but very enjoyable,’ Brian told The Southern Star.
‘I was working on the first day I arrived doing a preview of the Golden Globes and since then I’ve covered lots of stories, such as the anniversary of Donald Trump’s inauguration, the US Government shutdown, California mudslides and immigration reform. I really wanted my first few weeks to be busy, so that I could get a feel for the job from the start, and that has certainly been the case.’
Missing his wife Joanna and their two daughters Lucy (8) and Erin (5) is, however, one of the biggest challenges of his new post. ‘I do miss them, but the time is going quickly because it’s been so busy and they will be moving over in the next few months.
‘I am settling in well and Washington is an amazing city. There are so many world-famous landmarks here like the White House, the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument. I’m really enjoying exploring them all.’
A former student of Ballincollig Community School and a Communications graduate from DCU, Brian cut his teeth in journalism and broadcasting by helping out at the radio and TV stations at college, gaining invaluable experience there.
Stints in both Red FM and TV3 were followed by his appointment to RTÉ in 2015, where he worked across television and radio news.
Brian replaced Catríona Perry in Washington and she was a huge help for him in advance of his move to the US.
‘Catríona was great. We met several times before I left for the US and I’m regularly in touch with her by email and phone,’ he said. ‘She gave me lots of good, practical advice about the day-to-day workings of the job.
‘I also spoke with some of her predecessors in the Washington role, and they all had lots of good tips as well.’
Brian admits that President Trump has certainly kept him busy over the last month, whether it’s regarding comments on alleged racism or allegations of Russian collusion. And that’s without even mentioning Trump’s controversial tweets.
‘Whenever I approach a story about him, I’m always mindful that he was elected by voters and remains very popular among many of his supporters. The US economy is doing well and President Trump has kept many of his election promises,’ noted Brian.
The TV reporter added that there is a danger that stories about President Trump can be overly-negative, so as a journalist he always does his best to be fair and balanced, and reflect the fact that many Americans think he’s doing a good job.
Only last week, President Trump delivered his first State of the Union address which, Brian says, was fascinating to watch.
‘The annual speech before Congress gives presidents a chance to highlight the successes of the last 12 months and outline their plans for the year ahead. He spoke about unity and working with the Democrats, but many in the party felt he didn’t do enough to bridge the gaps between the two sides in areas such as immigration and infrastructure.’
Brian believes in order to achieve his goals, President Trump will need the support of the Democrats as the Republicans have a very small majority in the Senate.
As for meeting the man himself, Brian hasn’t yet had the pleasure.
Last June, Catríona Perry found herself going viral after President Trump said she had a ‘nice smile’. She was in the Oval Office after being invited to listen in as Trump spoke on the phone to Leo Varadkar following his appointment as Taoiseach.
‘With St Patrick’s celebrations approaching next month, hopefully we’ll be inside the White House for the meeting between President Donald Trump and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar,’ said Brian, with more than a hint of excitement at the prospect.