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Accountant, HR specialist, film-maker: who Terence O’Rourke and the other new RTÉ board members are

New chairman is reputedly collaborative, approachable and ‘artsy’, but had to defend KPMG’s pre-crash audits of AIB

Terence O’Rourke, who has been appointed as chair of the embattled RTÉ board, is a well-known figure in business circles in Dublin and has also been very active in both the semi-state sector and in cultural circles in the past decade.

He takes the helm of the national broadcaster where corporate governance has been a mess, staff morale is on the floor, public trust has been shattered and political patience is fast running out – if not already expired. On top of all that, the station is facing a financial reckoning which is likely to require deep cost-cutting, substantial re-organisation and painful reforms. To put it mildly, the clubbable, debonair O’Rourke has his work cut out.

His impressive CV has been widely consulted since the imminent appointment was reported by The Irish Times late on Monday evening, after the three Coalition party leaders agreed with the suggestion of the under-fire Minister for Media Catherine Martin. From Inniskeen, Co Monaghan, he joined the then Stokes Kennedy Crowley after a UCD degree in economics and history, and qualified as a chartered accountant. He rose through the ranks to become head of audit in 2003, before being elected managing partner in 2006. He served as the firm’s leader – by now it was part of the global KPMG group – until 2013, also serving on the firm’s global board and executive team.

His term was not without controversy, however, as KPMG – and the other big accountancy firms who audited the accounts of the Irish banks in the run-in to the economic crash and the banking bailout – were criticised for not sounding the alarm about the banks’ exposure to massive property lending. Appearing before the Oireachtas banking inquiry, he strongly defended the AIB audits.

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“We were not inept. We did a very high-quality audit of AIB – I can assure you of that,” he told the inquiry. KPMG was auditor of AIB, which received a State bailout of nearly €21 billion following the 2008 financial crisis, of which almost €14 billion has since been recovered.

As a manager, O’Rourke had a reputation as collaborative and approachable boss. He encouraged a SKC/KPMG tradition of senior staff using their financial and accountancy expertise in voluntary and public roles, and went on to serve on the boards of the Dublin Theatre Festival, the Women’s Executive Advisory Board, the Hugh Lane Gallery Trust and the Dublin City University Governing Authority.

O’Rourke left KPMG in 2013, going on to become chairman of Enterprise Ireland and later filling the same role at the ESB. He did commercial directorships at Ballymore and The Irish Times, and is currently a director of Kinsale Capital Management, a Dublin-based investment and advisory outfit, and Hibernia Reit, a property investment firm.

He is familiar in cultural circles – an “artsy kind of fella” is the description of one former colleague, who adds that O’Rourke is extremely well read. Another acquaintance says: “He knows business management, he knows everybody in Dublin, he has a very warm personality, very curious and interested in the arts.” With his impressive mane of greying hair – well, impressive for an accountant anyway – O’Rourke cuts a distinctive figure, and can often been seen walking between the city centre and his Wellington Road home. He is well known, and well liked.

It’s likely that it is O’Rourke’s financial and commercial expertise – as well as his experience in chairing boards of big semi-state companies – that has prompted Government to seek out his services. “Razor sharp on the finances,” was the verdict of one person who served on a board with him. It would be an understatement to say that has not been the most noticeable feature of recent RTÉ boards.

O’Rourke’s most important relationships will be with the RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst and with the Minister, Catherine Martin. RTÉ is desperately trying to put the past behind it; but putting its own house in order, and making the necessary and painful changes at the station, will not be easy.

“I’ve no doubt he’s doing this out of a sense of national service,” says one former colleague. “But I think he’s mad.”

Neasa Hardiman

Neasa Hardiman is award-winning film-maker who worked in RTÉ in the 1990s before leaving to pursue a career in independent film. While at RTÉ, she designed the current RTÉ logo, as well as working on shows such as Primetime and, as a director, Fair City.

Since leaving the broadcaster, she has worked with streaming services and with traditional broadcasters including the BBC, Channel 4, RTÉ and TG4. Her first full-length feature, Sea Fever, a sci-fi horror, received generally positive reviews in 2019.

She is currently on the boards of Trinity College Dublin, the Irish Film Institute, the Dublin International Film Festival and Screen Skills Ireland. Hardiman’s familiarity with RTÉ goes back beyond her stint there in the 1990s – her father, Thomas Hardiman, was director general of the broadcaster in the 1970s.

Terri Moloney

Terri Moloney is a specialist in human resources who has worked in a number of leading international companies, including Salesforce, Boston Scientific and Hilti, as well as Irish companies such as Kerry Group and Laing O’Rourke Construction.

She has also been active in the State sector – last year, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney appointed her to the board of Enterprise Ireland, and she also sits on the governing body of University College Cork, where she serves on the audit and risk committee.

Back in 2020, she told a trade publication that asked about the representation of women in IT companies: “We’re now in a situation where it’s more helpful to look forward, rather than back, and explanations and excuses that have been used in the past are no longer credible.” It’s a message she may have to repeat in RTÉ.

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