RTÉ crisis: New board members announced as PAC finds broadcaster may have ‘deliberately misrepresented’ earnings

Broadcaster should come back under statutory remit of C&AG, Public Accounts Committee says

Ní Raghallaigh Martin

15:37

The RTÉ crisis shows no sign of easing after former chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh claimed her “enforced dismissal” was a calculated move by Minister for Media Catherine Martin to “traduce” her reputation.

Separately, the Public Accounts Committee today published its report on RTÉ, detailing more than 20 recommendations, including that RTÉ should come back under the statutory remit of the Comptroller & Auditor General.

Hours before Coalition leaders met on Monday night to appoint her successor, Ms Ní Raghallaigh issued an uncompromising statement dismissing Ms Martin’s defence of the live RTÉ Prime Time interview that prompted the chair’s abrupt departure almost a fortnight ago.

She accused the Minister of “actively taking a hands-off approach” to the broadcaster and apparently contradicted some of Ms Martin’s public claims about the frequency of their contacts.

The party leaders later approved Ms Martin’s suggestion to appoint former KPMG managing partner Terence O’Rourke to be the new chairman of the RTÉ board, subject to Cabinet approval on Tuesday.

Main points

Best reads


17:23

That concludes our live story of today’s developments, thanks for sticking with us. Read back over the findings of the PAC report and the political reaction here.


17:17

Opposition parties said the Media Minister has further questions to answer after former RTÉ chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh heavily criticised Catherine Martin.

Labour TD Aodhan Ó Riordain said Ms Martin’s position is “not tenable” after Ms Ní Raghallaigh outlined a number of failures in the Green minister’s version of events which ultimately led to her resignation.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh said her resignation last month was an “enforced dismissal” by the minister which was seemingly designed to “traduce” her reputation.

The former chairwoman hit out at Ms Martin in a four-page letter, saying she had no option but to resign after the minister refused to express confidence in her during a live television interview.

Mr Ó Riordain described Ms Martin’s appearance on RTE’s Prime Time as “disgraceful”. – PA


16:02

Tánaiste Micheál Martin defended Minister for Media Catherine Martin when asked at a press conference for his reaction to former chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s statement and suggestions from her and others like Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon that Ms Martin had a “hands off” approach when it came to RTÉ.

In her statement on Monday Ms Ní Raghallaigh said: “My experience over the past 15 months has been of a Minister actively taking a hands-off approach whilst delegating through her officials.”

Mr Martin said Catherine Martin answered questions “very comprehensively” at the Committee on Media last week for more than three and a half hours.

“I thought she was very open and transparent in terms of the fact that the relationship [between her and former RTÉ chair Ms Ní Raghallaigh] broke down in the context of the minister not having confidence in responses she got to questions that she put very specifically and very deliberately to the chair at the time.”

He added: “We all regret what has happened in the sense that I don’t think anyone doubts the bone fides of Siún Ní Raghallaigh in terms of her role as chairperson of RTÉ and her commitment to public service.”

He said Ms Martin had thanked Ms Ní Raghallaigh for her contribution and commitment.

However, the Tánaiste added: “The minister was adamant in discussions generally with us that she believes that when she puts questions ... that she’s entitled to get answers to those and to be informed fully when significant decisions are taken and as to who was responsible for taking those decisions.

“Clearly, there was a breakdown in that confidence and in that relationship.”

Mr Martin also said: “We all know in life, we can have our perspectives.

“I see many disagreements in public life and the version of one person can be because you look at things subjectively, can be very different to the other person’s perspective on it ...”

He said he understood that Ms Martin met the former chairwoman of RTÉ on 11 occasions while adding: “that’s subject now to corroboration by the minister herself.”

Mr Martin added: “It’s not unusual for the head of state bodies to communicate with secretary generals either. That would be standard practice.”

He said: “There’s a broader picture in terms of a public service broadcaster.”

“I would have thought it was an accepted practice that politically, you have to measure your intervention with a public service broadcaster because it’s media and in times past very often Government were accused of overly interfering with RTÉ, which then could have implications in terms of the editorial independence of RTÉ.” – Cormac McQuinn


15:38

RTÉ must now show it is no longer the same organisation outlined in the PAC report

Jack Horgan-Jones’ analysis of the new state of play for RTÉ reads:

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has released its report on the RTÉ controversy – containing some 21 recommendations, including the headline finding that the broadcaster should be returned to the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).

This step now seems a foregone conclusion – supported by both the Government and Opposition, and it will give the PAC a standing role invigilating RTÉ.

So, while its current role examining the controversy now appears to be drawing to a close, the broadcaster can expect close marking from the committee going forward. Expect those meetings to become a fixture of the political calendar.

In truth, many of the report’s recommendations are not earth-shattering – but as several committee members pointed out during Tuesday’s launch, that in and of itself is an indictment of previous practices at the broadcaster.

Read his analysis in full here.


15:34

From our reporter in the Dáil, Sarah Burns:

The Minister for Media Catherine Martin will not answer questions on RTÉ in the Dáil this week.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the chamber on Tuesday that Ms Martin met with the former chairperson of the RTÉ board Siún Ní Raghallaigh 11 times over the past nine months.

Mr Varadkar said the minister was willing to engage and appear before the Oireachtas Media Committee again but would “like that to be in the context of the final reports being published”

“That can be done in a matter of the next few weeks,” he said.

The Taoiseach also said Ms Martin had provided some phone call and meeting notes which the committee had requested.

Opposition TDs called for Ms Martin to answer questions in the Dáil this week, in advance of the St Patrick’s Day recess next week. However, a vote on this week’s Dáil business was agreed to, which did not include a questions and answers slot with Ms Martin.

Mr Varadkar said the minister had answered questions for three and a half hours before the committee last week and had made statements in the chamber also.

“I hope that we can move on from this,” Mr Varadkar added. “We need a strong RTÉ in this country. We’re a small country, only five or six million people. We need to produce our own news content, our own current affairs content, our own drama, our own entertainment, our own children’s and Irish language programming.

“If we don’t, there’s a huge risk, we just get sucked into the news and media market, an entertainment market of the UK and US and that would not be good for our country.

“We made significant decisions today as a Government to appoint a new chairperson, someone with great experience leading state boards, but also great financial experience and two new board members as well and I hope that will be the beginning of a new start and allowing us to move on from this.”

Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s statement brought “a very different light” to Ms Martin’s presentation of events.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said the former chairperson’s statement clearly raised more questions for the minister and that the matter had to be “finally” put to rest.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy described Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s statement as extraordinary and that “unresolved questions” were not “the way to resolve the issue”.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the shambles at RTÉ had rolled on for about nine months.

“It is clearly the Government’s responsibility that you have failed to put this mess to bed and sort out the governance issues,” he said.

“The minister needs to come in and answer questions so we get beyond this debacle.”


15:26

Senior Government figures said they want to examine the Public Accounts Committee (PAC)’s report on RTÉ before committing to implementing any of its recommendations.

A key recommendation is that RTÉ would come under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) – which audits the accounts of Government departments and agencies.

Bringing RTÉ under the C&AG’s area of responsibility would also mean that representatives of the national broadcaster would have to attend PAC meetings to be quizzed by TDs on its finances.

Asked if the report would be implemented by Government, Tánaiste Micheál Martin said: “I’ll have to read it. My colleagues will want to read it, and ... there’ll be different perspectives on this.”

He said he is “pretty clear in trying to maintain the editorial independence of RTÉ and so we need to make sure that whatever we do that the interface between politics and RTÉ is not one that jeopardises or undermines the editorial independence of RTÉ and its conduct of public service broadcasting.”

Asked specifically if the recommendation that RTÉ be put under the C&AG’s remit Mr Martin said: “We’ll give this due consideration just as PAC have and as I say there’ll be different perspectives.”

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Dohonoe said the PAC has had weeks to develop its report and “I think it’s only fair we got a bit of time to consider it.”

He added: “The Tánaiste has already outlined two issues the Government will have to consider.

“Firstly, you know, what does that mean then for the balance of power in the relationship between an independent state broadcaster and the Oireachtas?

“And then the second matter is RTÉ is a commercial semi-State organisation.

“It’s competing against the private sector who are not subject to the kind of supervision that the C&AG would put on RTÉ”.

The Fine Gael minister said: “I think it’s just reasonable for us all to say we want to spend a bit of time considering the report before any of us make instant reactions as to what report recommendation will be implemented.”

On Monday, before the publication of the PAC report, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar indicated he was open to RTÉ coming under the remit of the C&AG.

Mr Varadkar said the Government has not made the policy decision on that but said his view is “it’d be a good idea to have that additional level of scrutiny.” – Cormac McQuinn


15:01

Our political reporter Jack Horgan-Jones writes:

Some interesting comments from this morning’s PAC report launch on the Catherine Martin/Siún Ní Raghallaigh rupture – particularly from Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon, who said that he had a concern about the “hands off approach” of Ms Martin, stretching back to last summer when, he said, there seemed to be few meetings between the pair even as the scandal unfolded in July and August.

“For seven weeks there wasn’t an actual meeting at a time when RTÉ was in chaos in terms of the revelations.”

He added that going forward, “[New RTÉ chair] Terence O’Rourke needs to be aware of the communication piece with Catherine Martin and how that can actually start, take the ground running in relation to the strategic vision, implementation of that plan, that’s really, really important.”

Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh said there had been a “breakdown in communication”, mirroring comments by the Taoiseach this morning. He backed his Green Party colleague saying she had been given inaccurate information by Ms Ní Raghallaigh. He said Ms Martin would “seek to clarify” but questioned whether there was a need to “repeat a three and a half hour circus” in a Dáil committee.

Chair Brian Stanley and Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy, as well as Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster, said there needed to be a Dáil Q&A session on the matter.


14:59

Good afternoon, it’s Glen Murphy here taking over from my colleague Jack White for the evening. Thanks to Jack for his work so far today.


14:35

Martin confirms appointment of new chair

Minister for Media Catherine Martin has confirmed the appointment of Terence O’Rourke as the new chair of RTÉ's board.

“Terence O’Rourke has gained vast experience at executive level having served as Managing Partner with KPMG Ireland as well as serving on the firm’s Global Management Team. He also brings a wealth of non-executive board experience, including chairing both Enterprise Ireland and the ESB,” she said.

Ms Martin confirmed that she will meet with the new chair later this week.

Speaking after confirmation of his appointment, Mr O’Rourke said he is “honoured” to be appointed.

“RTÉ's public service role across news, current affairs and beyond is arguably more important today than ever. I look forward to working with the Board and Director General in charting the future for RTÉ, and to working with the Minister and Government to establish a stable footing for the organisation,” he said.

Ms Martin also confirmed the appointment by Government of Ms Terri Moloney, a Human Resources professional, and Dr Neasa Hardiman, an award-winning executive producer, director and writer, as members of the board.

“All three new members bring with them a range of experiences and attributes which will enable the Board to continue its important work of delivering further reform at RTÉ, whilst also driving new strategies to bring the organisation forward and continue to deliver high-quality public service content for Irish audiences,” she said.


14:21

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called for the publication of the two expert reports on governance and workplace culture “as soon as possible” to expedite the implementation of organisational and cultural change in the public service broadcaster.

Speaking after the launch of the PAC’s report, Séamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ expressed support for the recommended inclusion of RTÉ under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

“The NUJ has long advocated greater transparency and accountability in relation to all aspects of RTÉ, including executive renumeration.

“The Comptroller and Auditor General’s office could exercise an important role in building trust. The PAC report is, however, just one part of the jigsaw and should be considered alongside the Corporate Governance report and the review on HR Culture and contracts,” he said.

Mr Dooley said RTÉ staff need to see progress on reform, alongside certainty regarding funding.

“Delays in the publication of other reports, such as the Future of Media Commission report, the epic delay in publishing the statutory review of defamation law and the long-awaited review of the Freedom of Information Act are worrying precedents and it is vital that recommendations are co-ordinated and considered,” he said.


14:00

Brian Stanley: ‘Succession of scandals are clear to us at this stage’

PAC chair Brian Stanley has said the report and recommendations published today provide a framework for RTÉ to follow and “move on”.

He said the public has been shocked by a clear “succession of scandals” at the broadcaster, adding more issues could arise in the future “in regard to what went down at RTÉ in the past”.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Mr Stanley welcomed the appointments of Neasa Hardiman and Terri Moloney to RTÉ's board adding board members must be “vigilant” going forward.

Separately, he described Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s statement as a “bombshell” and said it raises further questions that need to be answered by Minister for Media Catherine Martin.

“It appeared at times as if the Government, through the Minister, were taking a bit of a hands-off approach to RTÉ.

“Obviously, further questions need to be asked around this – that’s why I think the Minister should come before the Dáil and answer those questions,” he said.

– Vivienne Clarke


13:38

Independent TD Verona Murphy, who is a member of the Public Accounts Committee, has said there cannot be any more “side deals” in RTÉ and that there needs to be greater transparency in the future concerning salaries.

“Things have to be transparent” she told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show, adding a register of outside activity for staff is a must.

When asked if the recommendations of the report by the PAC could be implemented soon, Ms Murphy said: “It can happen quickly.”

– Vivienne Clarke


12:44

New RTÉ board members confirmed

Terri Moloney and Neasa Hardiman have been confirmed as new RTÉ board members.

Ms Moloney has a background in human resources and has served as a board member of Enterprise Ireland. She also served as an independent non-executive director with the Governing Body Audit and Risk Committee at University College Cork.

Ms Hardiman is a Bafta-winning director and writer, primarily having worked in television.

Meanwhile, Terence O’Rourke is set to be named as the new chair of the RTÉ board.


12:42

12:14

‘Credibility issue’ following former chair’s statement

During the press conference to mark the unveiling of the PAC report, Labour TD Alan Kelly said Catherine Martin’s position was “full of holes” and there was a “credibility issue” following Monday’s statement from Siún Ní Raghallaigh.

Several PAC members are now saying that a Dáil questions-and-answers session is needed this week.

More on Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s statement can be read here.


11:42

PAC report recommends RTÉ be brought under remit of C&AG

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recommended that the Government bring RTÉ back under the statutory remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).

The move that would make RTÉ accountable to the PAC is one of 21 recommendations made in its report which also called on the broadcaster to publish all salaries above €150,000 per year in its financial statements.

This would be in addition to the publishing of exact amounts paid out to former members of staff earning more than €150,000 upon their departure from the broadcaster.

Separately, any future severance agreements with staff should not contain any confidentiality clauses, it recommended.

The agreements should also include a clause that the former employee co-operate with any internal or external inquiries or investigations, including Oireachtas committees.

Also recommended is that RTÉ introduces a written policy concerning negotiations with presenters and their representatives as well as implementing, without delay, a register of gifts.

The broadcaster was called on to report to the PAC on its register of interests and its register of outside activities for staff.

PAC chair Brian Stanley said that based on the evidence before it, the committee believes that decisions taken by RTÉ “demonstrate a lack of rigorous financial controls, poor communication, little transparency and amount to a failure of governance which combined have damaged public trust in an organisation for which trust should be paramount”.

Read the full news story on the PAC report here.


11:20

Public Accounts Committee publishes report

RTÉ may have “deliberately misrepresented” the earnings of its 10 most highly paid presenters, a report by the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has concluded.

The report also concludes there was an attempt to “conceal” RTÉ's commitment to underwrite undisclosed payments to former star presenter Ryan Tubridy.

The report, based on marathon hearings and reams of documentation supplied since last summer when the scandal broke, concludes the committee questions the accounting practices in place at RTÉ given that it published the earnings of its 10 most highly paid presenters with such a significant understatement of earnings.

“In light of the evidence presented to committee, any objective assessment could not discount the possibility that the figures were deliberately misrepresented by RTÉ,” the report concludes.

It also concludes a key note taken in May 2020 “suggests an attempt to circumvent normal regulations and procedures on the part of RTÉ and to conceal the purported underwriting of the contract and payments to Mr Tubridy”.


11:00

Former RTÉ chair: ‘Our legislators have let us down’

Former chair of the RTÉ authority Fintan Drury, who held the position between 2005 and 2006, has said “generations of politicians” have mismanaged RTÉ.

“What has happened over the last six months, eight months is infuriating for people in RTÉ, the NUJ and the other trade unions in RTÉ for people who are representing the people that are doing the public service piece.

“And what they’re observing is an extraordinary presentation of what the organisation does and the mismanagement of it, not by the board, but by politicians, generations of politicians.

“Our legislators have let us down. Most of that is to do with neglect. They will not address and they are not willing to address the fundamental of what public service broadcasting is. I’m tired of listening to people talking about funding, how we fund it. We fund it using Model A, B or C, now do it.

“Now we have a chairman going in who’s an accountant, who’s an experienced man. I know him. He’s done a good job in ESB. He’s done a good job with Enterprise Ireland. Let’s define what it is first before we decide how we’re going to pay for it,” he said.

Mr Drury said he had “significant engagement” with officials in the department when he was chair, but limited contact with then-minister Noel Dempsey.

“Whenever I met the minister, we were discussing important substantive issues,” he told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny show.

The issues of concern at that time were the future of RTÉ and how public service broadcasting was to be defined, he said.

Mr Drury said he had to get approval from the minister at the time to carry out a major review on RTÉ.

– Vivienne Clarke


10:49

Among other blows in her statement on Monday, Siún Ní Raghallaigh strongly criticised the Minister for Media by claiming she did not assist the former RTÉ board chair in tackling the decline in licence fee compliance.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh outlined how Ms Martin “said she would refuse to tell licence payers what to do”.

In July, Ms Martin made headlines when she stopped short of telling people to pay their licence fee, urging them instead to remember “the good of public service broadcasting”.

Asked at the time if she would urge people to continue to pay their TV licences, she said: “I’m not going to advise anyone. We must remember the good of public service broadcasting, we must remember the staff when people are making these decisions.”

Since then, Ms Martin has said she can understand the frustration surrounding the TV licence in light of various controversies at the broadcaster but has emphasised the importance of the fee as it supports public service broadcasting.

Others including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin and Green Party Leader Eamon Ryan have explicitly urged the public to pay the fee since the payments controversy came to light in June 2023.


09:24

Una Mullally questions what would happen to any public body, Government department, local authority, or publicly funded entity were they subject to the granular scrutiny RTÉ has come under for the guts of a year?

Read her article here


09:20

Varadkar: Relationship between Martin and Ní Raghallaigh had ‘essentially’ broken down

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he was certain that Catherine Martin would be happy to answer questions in the Dáil about the crisis in RTÉ.

Mr Varadkar told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that what had happened was that the relationship between Ms Martin and Ms Ní Raghallaigh had “essentially” broken down and the Minister found herself in a situation where she did not feel she could “fully trust the information she was given by the former chair.”

The Taoiseach added the former chair had admitted that she had given the wrong information to the Minister.

I think fundamentally what happened is, is that relationship broke down and Minister Martin lost trust in what she was hearing. And, that’s fundamentally, how the relationship broke down and why, the former chairperson chose to resign.

“But fundamentally, I do think they both are women who are in good standing. And I don’t believe that Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s reputation should be tarnished by all of this. Sometimes things happen, misunderstandings, relationships breakdown,” he said.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone did anything wrong or lacked confidence, in my view.”

When asked about the recommendation that RTÉ should be brought under the control of the Comptroller and Auditor General, who will scrutinise the finances, among other things, Mr Varadkar said he thought that was a good idea, but that it would be a Government decision.

There were a number of reports due shortly and they would all have to be scrutinised and no decision would be taken until that had happened, he said. Decision would have to be made to see RTÉ put on a stable footing, he added.

“I’m someone who believes that Ireland needs a strong RTÉ. We’re small country, five million people. If we don’t produce our own quality news content, current affairs, drama programmes, all of those things, we’re so easily sucked into the news and media markets of Britain.”

– Vivienne Clarke


09:13

Martin ‘completely out of her depth’, says Doherty

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader, Pearse Doherty, has said the party does not have plans to call for a no-confidence vote in the Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin.

However, the Minister should come before the Dáil to answer questions and “clear up very quickly” concerns about RTÉ.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Doherty said the Minister was “behind the curtains” and there were concerns that Ms Martin did not “have a handle” on the crisis in RTÉ.

“She is completely out of her depth.” When asked if Sinn Féin would be tabling a motion of no confidence in the Minister, Mr Doherty said he did not have confidence in the Minister for Housing or the Minister for Health.

“We can’t put down motions of no confidence in all of them.” Mr Doherty pointed out there had been a report on the TV licence issue on the Minister’s desk “for the last three years”, but she had not addressed the issue.

“I think she’s been exposed as a Minister that completely doesn’t have a handle on the crisis in RTÉ. “We are rolling into crisis after crisis in RTÉ.” It was clear that the Minister was “hands off” and had repeatedly said “that’s not my responsibility”.

“We want the Minister to come before the Dáil to answer questions. Let her be held accountable to the Dáil.”

There needed to be clarity on the exact number of meetings the Minister had with the chair of the RTÉ authority, he said. The Minister had claimed there were monthly meetings but Ms Ní Raghallaigh had said there were only a handful of meetings.

– Vivienne Clarke


08:01

What next for the broadcaster at this point? In his political digest this morning, Jack Horgan-Jones writes that this latest development will doubtlessly lead to Dáil questions, more committee hearings and a cache of documents about the resignation dropping to a committee. In short, no end in sight.

Martin doesn’t appear to be in real danger of being forced from her position, and so long as she backs herself, it seems the rest of the Coalition has little interest in destabilising itself by seeking a head (even if the murmurs of concern are more audible). But the net effect of this is corrosive: Martin is damaged, relationships further soured, her authority in the crisis weakened, and public perceptions of Government and State competence further knocked.


07:58

And here is the response from Minister for Media Catherine Martin, which landed a few hours later:

“I note the statement of the former Chair. Last week, I outlined in detail the position of the Department officials and I on this matter.

This included taking questions at a three and a half-hour meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee and doing statements in the Dáil.

Any Minister needs to rely on getting clear, timely and accurate information from the Chair of a State Body.

This is particularly important at such a challenging time in RTÉ's history.

I would again like to put on record my thanks to the former Chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh for her dedication and commitment to RTÉ and public service broadcasting.

An important step forward for RTÉ will be taken tomorrow when I seek Government approval for the appointment of a new Chair and additional boards members. Upon appointment I will seek to meet the new Chair and the Director General in the coming days.”


07:56

Here is the full text of the statement from Siún Ní Raghallaigh which landed yesterday afternoon:

On being appointed Chair, I never intended to become involved in any political controversy – the last thing I want is additional damage being caused to the public service broadcaster by challenging certain assertions made by the Minister. However, given the unfolding of recent events, the following matters require clarification.

On accepting the offer to become Chair I did so with one purpose, this was to assist reform the State broadcaster with a key focus on developing a strategy for the future, whilst dealing with all issues that were uncovered during my tenure. I dedicated every single day of the last 15 months to this cause and put my personal life on hold such was the importance I placed on this task.

During Thursday 22nd February, a series of telephone conversations happened between Department officials and myself where officials relayed messages from the Minister and they relayed my responses back to the Minister. This was not an unusual way for the Minister to communicate with me. It is not true that there were scheduled/formal monthly meetings between the Minister and myself as has been claimed. In my 15 months as Chair, I only had a handful of meetings directly with the Minister. In the Minister’s presentation to the Media Committee, it was stated that ‘the direct line of communication between a Minister for media and RTÉ is the chair of the board’. On the whole this took the form of communications with her Department officials.

Conversations with the officials were two-way. Whilst, I have no way of knowing what was relayed back to the Minister; I have no reason to think the information shared was anything other than the content of what I stated to the officials. I have always been forthcoming with information in my frequent updates with the Department, I had no reason or motivation to withhold any information. I have always had an open and constructive relationship with all the Department officials, including the previous secretary general. I hold them all in high regard.

I repeat that it was my practice to maintain regular (often daily) contact with the Department. As the minutes of the Remuneration Committee meeting (Oct 9th) show, my role as Chair of the Remuneration Committee was to inform the Department of the discussions that had taken place, and I did so. I advised the then secretary general on October 10th of the decision of the Remuneration Committee, I thought no more about it nor did I receive any follow-up queries from the Department or the Minister in relation to it before exit packages came into the public domain. Given the breadth of the challenges facing RTÉ; I had moved on to concentrate on several pressing issues conscious of the urgency of restoring confidence of the staff in their employer and, insofar as it was in our power, confidence of licence fee payers in the broadcaster. This was urgent, not least to continue to arrest the decline in licence fee compliance since the controversy began last Summer and which, regretfully, was not assisted by the Minister who said she would refuse to tell licence payers what to do. In addition, as Chair I was working with a Board with two vacancies from Sept/Oct rising to three vacancies in January.

I wrote to the Minster in early August 2023 to advise of one of those upcoming vacancies, bringing her attention to the urgent need for certain skill sets that would be essential for any new incoming board members, prioritising financial/accounting skills. Given the difficulties facing the organisation, I found that the reduction in the number of board members and in particular the lack of financial expertise within the Board lay heavily on me. However, no appointments were made. For context, this absence of financial acumen on the board was also in addition to the vacancy in the role of CFO in an organisation in deep financial trouble since last July.

The Clarification:

Reference has been made to ‘numerous’ inquires into the exit package for Mr Collins at two ministerial meetings of which I attended with the DG of RTÉ – however, the fact is that these enquiries were outside the agenda of the meetings and were mentioned at the end of the meetings that dealt with other substantive elements. Once I realised that I had inadvertently given the Minister the wrong answer to a question from her at the end of a meeting on Monday 19th February and again at a meeting on Wednesday 21st, I notified the Department that I wanted to make a clarification at 10.07am on Thursday 22nd February. The error was a lapse of memory – nothing more. I had no motivation or gain to obfuscate on the matter. This was a matter that had been dealt with in October 2023, almost 5 months prior. Mr. Collins’ exit package had been discussed by the Remuneration Committee on October 9th 2023 which I attended and was officially approved by the Committee on the morning of October 10th 2023. On my call made to the Department on the 22nd February, I also reminded the officials that on the morning of October 10th, I had spoken by phone with the then secretary general about the October 9th meeting and had given her the details of that meeting and what in broad terms had been approved by the Remuneration Committee in relation to Mr. Collin’s exit package. The exit package was also discussed in more than passing references at the Public Accounts Committee on 12th October 2023. In addition, a letter was also sent from RTÉ to the Department on November 30th which outlined in writing the new terms of reference for the Remuneration Committee.

The questions posed to me in relation to the exit packages from last October were left of field and rehashing an issue that was dealt with. To raise it five months later was and remains baffling to me.

For context, I would also draw your attention to the RTÉ DG’s statement issued on Friday 23rd February in relation to his recollection of the Minister’s questions at the meetings during that week which supports this position.

Subsequent Calls with Department officials:

After the clarification I made on February 22nd, the first response from the officials was to relay the Minister’s disappointment and indicate that a formal letter stating this would be sent to me. I asked them to request the Minister not to send the letter because it would not be in the best interests of RTÉ as it would in effect, put this matter, which had been dealt with at the Remuneration Committee a number of months ago, right back in the arena with no positive purpose and would make my position as Chair untenable.

It is inaccurate to state anything other than that I told the secretary general of the Department about the decision of the Remuneration Committee in respect of the Richard Collins case. I have no doubt at all on that matter. After all, the purpose of the phone call on October 10th 2023 was to report on the outcome of the mediation with Mr. Collins’ lawyers the day before as instructed to the Remuneration Committee and recorded in the minutes. I explained this when asked on Thursday February 22nd and, when pressed, I conceded that I couldn’t possibly know if the detail of my conversation with the secretary general was passed on to the Minister as I was not a party to that conversation but that I would imagine that it had.

A different construction is now being put on that, my use of the word ‘imagine’ is now being misrepresented.

During the course of the following 9.5 hours, following my phone call at 10.07 to the Department on February 22nd there were a number of calls between Department officials and myself. During these conversations, I was actively trying to get my point across as to how a letter from the Minister would be damaging to the urgent work the Board and the Department were engaged in. I was suggesting to the officials that this is a time when we need the Minister’s support, that I owned my mistake, I apologised for the error, and would the Minister consider acknowledging and accepting the clarification – this would be the best course of action for the organisation and not cause a significant impasse to the current work on reform being undertaken at RTÉ.

There was no invitation at any point during these conversations for me to meet or talk to the Minister directly (of course I would have made myself instantly available to meet or talk to her by phone.) However, later in the day a meeting was suggested, but only in the context of the overall letter expressing disappointment.

I said that sending the letter would in effect make my position untenable as it would reflect the Minister expressing no confidence in me and this would mean I would have to resign.

In response, it was said to me that the Minister wanted to get the letter out to me so that if she were asked any question on this matter during her Prime Time interview, she could say that she had sent this letter to me. It was now apparent that a plan was afoot, somehow involving the letter and the Prime Time appearance and that would not be changed by any input from RTÉ. It began to appear that the letter was as much being dictated by the upcoming Prime Time interview as anything surrounding my clarification about the Collins case.

The letter was issued to me by the Minister’s private secretary at 19.36.

I discussed the situation with the DG and the Company Secretary and we decided to reconvene after we saw the broadcast.

We reconvened after the interview on Prime Time, and after hearing the content of the interview agreed that I had no option but to resign. It seemed somewhat incredulous to me that the Minister cited ‘leaking’ when in fact there was just one media inquiry to which a response was due the next morning.

An emergency meeting of the Board was convened, and a statement was drafted.

My resignation letter was emailed to Minister’s private secretary at 00.45 on Friday morning, 23rd February.

The press query:

At around 3.30pm on Thursday 22nd, I was alerted of a press query to the Board in relation to the exit packages of Mr Rory Coveney and Mr Richard Collins. A response was drafted and, as was normal practice, I notified the Department of the query and also of our proposed response. I was asked by the Department as to the deadline for response, which I queried and was advised that it could be pushed to the following morning, Friday 23rd. I was told by the Department that it would definitely be better if I could do that, push to the next morning. At 5.30pm, I asked communications to delay the response until the following morning. At no point during these exchanges on the press query was I told of any other similar press queries to the Department.

Good Governance:

The rule book on good governance may prescribe regular contact between Minister and Chair as the norm but, from day one, I had no choice but to accept the practice of regular contact between Chair and secretary general. Although I believe this practice worked well but it is not typical. It is also contrary to the impression given by the Minister to your committee members on Tuesday, 27th February. My experience over the past 15 months has been of a Minister actively taking a hands-off approach whilst delegating through her officials.

Conclusion:

If the Minister had decided that she no longer wanted me as Chair, that is her privilege. However, I cannot remain silent about the manner of my enforced dismissal which seemed designed to traduce my reputation.

I do not claim to understand why an issue disposed of on October 10th 2023 and subsequently discussed in length at the PAC should be revived in February 2024 but not in the intervening period. I do not claim that the severance package of the former CFO was in any way unimportant, but in my mind, it was historical as I, along with the DG, wrestled with many current challenges. I also want to record my conviction that, quantum aside, the restructure programme in RTÉ would not be possible without resort to negotiated severance arrangements.

The work of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sports & the Media is of vital importance in the context of public service media. It serves a significant role to uncover the truth and exposé misinformation. I hope all the members of the Committee will continue to press for the expedient political resolution to the funding of public service media on this island. For a long time, successive governments have avoided putting the public service broadcaster on a sound financial footing, resulting in the disablement of RTÉ's ability to change and respond dynamically to the global changes that threaten democracies and independent reportage. If anything comes from this latest debacle, my wish is that it will bring about focus on what is really important here for our democracy and our citizens.

I really enjoyed working with DG Kevin Bakhurst and the Board and we were excited about reaching our destination. Over the past 15 months as Chair, my work has involved intensive and extensive inputs as the DG and the Board worked through a range of matters. I hope that this work will continue, and that the DG is supported with a full complement of Board to expediate transformation and reform.


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