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Dee Forbes Leah Farrell/
RTÉ pay scandal

Media committee will reconvene if former RTÉ chief Dee Forbes and others available, chair says

RTÉ has been embroiled in controversy for weeks.

THERE IS STILL a “huge part of the jigsaw puzzle missing” with regard to information on the concealed payments controversy at RTÉ, the head of an Oireachtas committee has said.

Niamh Smyth, chairwoman of the Oireachtas Media Committee, said she still wants to hear from further witnesses from the media giant because she is not clear over aspects of undeclared payments made to star presenter Ryan Tubridy.

The national broadcaster has been embroiled in controversy for weeks after it announced that it had under-reported Tubridy’s salary and failed to declare hundreds of thousands of euros in additional payments to him.

RTÉ bosses, as well as Tubridy and his agent, Noel Kelly, have appeared before the Media Committee to answer questions over the controversy.

But Smyth told RTÉ’s This Week programme that she still wants to hear from other witnesses who have not yet given evidence, including former director-general Dee Forbes and former head of content Jim Jennings.

Forbes has since left the organisation and Jennings is on sick leave.

Smyth said those “two critical voices have been absent from the conversation all along” and that they “had in integral part to play in all of the wheeling and dealing that went on here”.

Smyth said: “There is a huge part of the jigsaw puzzle missing at the moment.

“Our committee stands ready to meet with those particular witnesses when they are available to do that.

“It has been a long three weeks for RTÉ and it has been damaging.”

She said her committee is prepared to meet over the summer months if required.

She added: “If there is a need for us to reconvene, we stand ready and available.

“We have made it quite clear to the voices that have been absent that, when they are fit and able, if that is over the summer months, we will absolutely reconvene to hear from them.”

“The (Media) Minister (Catherine Martin) has commissioned two really important reviews – one over culture and another one over external contractors – and there is an external audit to follow the paper trail.

“I would hope that with those three inquiries we will get the full facts.

“It would be nice if the absent voices came forward and gave their perception and their interpretation of what happened, but I think those reviews will help to piece a lot of this together.”

Smyth said her committee has provided RTÉ with a request for further information on a number of issues, including the Toy Show musical, which recorded losses of €2.2 million in its first year.

She said: “We know RTÉ have had financial constraints over the past number of years, maybe going back further, so €2.2 million of a loss on a musical is a significant piece of finances that had to have a material difference to the organisation.”

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