Olivia O’Leary

UCD Alumni Award in Arts and Humanities 2023

BA 1969 (English, French, Spanish)

Olivia O’Leary is a broadcaster and journalist. Born in Carlow, she studied at UCD before becoming an apprentice journalist in the ‘Nationalist and Leinster Times’. She joined RTÉ as a news reporter in 1972 and was Belfast correspondent, 1975-76. She began writing for the ‘Irish Times’ newspaper in 1978 and reported from Argentina on the Falklands War.

In 1980, Olivia O’Leary became a presenter on RTÉ’s flagship current affairs programme ‘Today Tonight’. She left to work on BBC’s ‘Newsnight’, and was made that programme’s first senior female presenter in 1985. She later returned to ‘Today Tonight’ and also presented ‘Questions and Answers’ and ‘Prime Time’ on RTÉ television. She contributes a column to RTÉ Radio 1′s ‘Drivetime’ and hosts ‘The Poetry Programme’. Her publications include ‘Politicians and Other Animals’, ‘Party Animals’ and she co-authored the book ‘Mary Robinson: The Authorised Biography’, with Dr Helen Burke.

Olivia won three Jacob’s Awards during her broadcasting career with RTÉ; for her work as a radio news reporter, for her hosting of ‘Today Tonight’, and for her chairing of ‘Questions and Answers’. She has also won a Sony Award for her BBC Radio 4 programme Between Ourselves. Olivia was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature from UCD in 2011 and in 2019 she was admitted as a member of the Royal Irish Academy.