'None of us can afford to let down our guard': Anchors apologise for RTÉ gathering on evening news bulletins

The newsreader was one of a number of presenters at the event.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 20th 2020, 10:00 PM

RTÉ NEWS PRESENTERS David McCullagh and Eileen Dunne have apologised for their presence at a gathering in Montrose last week where social distancing was not fully observed.

The newsreaders were among a number of presenters, also including Bryan Dobson and Miriam O’Callaghan, who gathered for the final day of work for a long-time employee.

A report on what happened featured on the front page of The Irish Sun newspaper this morning, and McCullagh and others issued apologies through RTÉ earlier today.

McCullagh apologised for a second time at the start of this evening’s Six One bulletin.

“I am unfortunately one of the people who failed to properly observe social distancing here in RTÉ last week,” he said.

“It is an error of judgement I deeply regret, for which I take full responsibility and for which I unreservedly apologise to you our audience.

“None of us can afford to let down our guard, even for a moment, and I am very, very sorry that I failed to do the right thing on this occasion.”

Dunne also issued an apology at the start of this evening’s Nine O’Clock news.

“As you’ve seen, I too was photograph at the farewell for Phil, and I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for my lack of judgement, particularly to RTÉ colleagues who’ve worked so hard to keep this campus Covid free over the past eight months,” she said.

“I’ve let you all down, and I’m sorry.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he found the revelations “disappointing”, describing the event as “not helpful”.

“I think it’s a reminder to us all, in terms of our individual and collective behaviour,” he told Virgin Media.

“Covid and the suppression of Covid really boils down to our own individual behaviours. And I think we all have to behave as if we have Covid and that we could spread it if we engage with someone…

“I think people have apologised, and we’ll all learn from that again.”

He added that the situation would give a sense of normality that ran counter to public health messages, and called on people to avoid behaving similarly.

RTÉ said in a statement earlier that the event was a “short impromptu gathering in a public area” and that “a small number of RTÉ personnel working” attended.

RTÉ News has reported on the event, including on the Six One just before McCullagh’s apology, and has also published some of the photographs of the event on its website.

The National Union of Journalists has called for an urgent review into the breach of public health guidelines at RTÉ.

With reporting from Rónán Duffy.

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