Advertisement

We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Rollingnews.ie
Operation Resignation

How Siún Ni Raghallaigh was left with no choice but to quit after another chaotic week for RTÉ

Here’s an explainer of the events that led up to Ní Raghallaigh’s resignation in the early hours of the morning – and the fallout.

RTÉ BOARD CHAIR Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s resignation and the circumstances surrounding it have created more questions about governance at the RTÉ and communication between the broadcaster and Media Minister Catherine Martin.

The controversies at the national broadcaster have been rolling for the last eight months, and in recent weeks there’s been a renewed focus on the level of exit packages given to former RTÉ executives.

The latest development is the resignation of Siún Ní Raghallaigh, who was the Chair of the RTÉ Board up until last night, and who quit after Minister Martin failed to express confidence in her when questioned last night.

Here’s an explainer of the events that led up to Ní Raghallaigh’s resignation in the early hours of the morning and the fallout for RTÉ and the government today.

Exit packages

The catalyst of the latest debacle was RTÉ’s recent handling of exit packages for executives who have left the organisation.

Oireachtas committee hearings last year identified that former Chief Financial Officer Breda O’Keeffe had left in 2020 under a voluntary exit scheme – but other executives said at the hearings they were not aware of the details of the package.

An external review by McCann Fitzgerald LLP into RTÉ’s voluntary exit schemes identified that more than 250 applications were made under a 2017 scheme, of which 176 were successful. However, O’Keeffe’s was unusual in that it was the “only one” that was not considered and approved by the RTÉ executive board.

RTÉ Director General Kevin Bakhurst revealed last week that the package was worth €450,000.

It has also emerged that exit packages were paid to RTÉ’s former Director of Strategy Rory Coveney, who oversaw the €2.2 million loss-making Toy Show The Musical and resigned last summer, and to Richard Collins, O’Keeffe’s successor as CFO. It is not publicly known how much either was paid.

Information flow

As the Cabinet minister with responsibility for media, Catherine Martin has been the face of the government in dealings with RTÉ since the scandals first emerged last summer.

The minister said yesterday that she had been told twice that Ní Raghallaigh did not know about the details of Richard Collins’ exit package, but had learned in the course of the day that the Chair was in fact aware of them.

Minister Martin gave an interview to RTÉ’s Prime Time last night in which she said that she was repeatedly “misinformed” by the chair on whether the board signed off on the exit packages.

The minister said that Ní Raghallaigh assured her on Monday and Wednesday that the board had no involvement in approving exit payments made to executives, but that yesterday morning, she was informed that the RTÉ board did play a role in signing off on Collins’s package.

His exit package went before the RTÉ remuneration board, which is chaired by Ní Raghallaigh. 

However, RTÉ has pushed back and said that Ní Raghaillaigh told the Department of Media about the process surrounding Collins’ exit from the broadcaster.

In a statement this morning, RTÉ said: “The Director-General and the former Chair met with the Minister for over three hours this week. A large volume of issues were addressed and discussed, and within that context some confusion arose regarding a question from the Minister to the Chair about the approval by the RTÉ Board of the exit of former CFO Richard Collins.

“The Chair had in fact informed the Department about the process which led to Richard Collins’ departure from RTÉ on October 10th, the day after it was approved at the Remuneration Committee which has delegated powers from the Board. This detail was taken as read although it seems now that it shouldn’t have been.

“After checking the minutes of the Remuneration Committee, the Chair moved swiftly to correct this detail with department officials on Thursday, and remind them that the correct process had been followed, and that the Chair had previously informed the Department of same.”

Confidence

In the Prime Time interview last night, Minister Martin was asked whether she had confidence in Ní Raghaillaigh as Chair of the RTÉ Board.

The media minister stopped short of saying she had lost confidence in the Chair, but refused to say that she did have confidence – instead insisting that she had asked Ní Raghallaigh to meet her early in the morning today. 

Ní Raghaillaigh would be given the opportunity to explain her side of events, Martin said. 

Martin said she was “deeply disappointed” in the situation and that her direct line of communication to RTÉ has “always been” the chair.

Resignation

At ten to one in the early hours of this morning, Siún Ní Raghallaigh released a statement announcing that she was handing in her resignation. 

After Catherine Martin’s comments on Prime Time, Ní Raghallaigh said it was “abundantly clear” that she no longer had the confidence of the minister.

“As such, my position is no longer tenable,” she said. 

In the statement, Ní Raghallaigh gave an account of the events that had transpired.

“I said that I was aware of them [the exit packages], but they had not come before the full board. However, I neglected to recollect that Richard Collins’ exit package did go before the renumeration committee,” she said.

“This was not an intentional misrepresentation, and I subsequently contacted the Department to clarify the details and remind them that I had previously appraised them of the matter in October.” 

Ní Raghallaigh said Kevin Bakhurst had brought Coveney’s exit package to her attention and Collins’ exit package “was brought to and approved by the remuneration committee of the board of RTÉ” in October. 

The RTÉ board is due to hold an emergency meeting this afternoon following Ní Raghallaigh’s resignation.

Fallout

Minister Martin has been subject to criticism and is facing pressure over how she handled the situation.

The Labour Party have said her position as Media Minister is “increasingly untenable”, while the Social Democrats say she has “serious questions to answer”.

Social Democrats Leader Holly Cairns said Martin “showed a lamentable lack of judgement in agreeing to proceed” with the interview before meeting Ní Raghallaigh to clarify certain details.

That led to the situation that Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley, chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee, described as the minister “effectively” sacking Ní Raghallaigh on live television by refusing to say she had confidence in her.

However, both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste have indicated their support for Catherine Martin.

Cabinet colleages Minister Helen McEntee and Minister Roderic O’Gorman have also defended her, with McEntee saying this morning that Martin handled the latest controversy “the best way possible”.

“She gave a commitment to do an interview and fulfilled that commitment. What she simply did last night was outline the facts as they happened throughout the week,” McEntee said.

Readers like you are keeping these stories free for everyone...
Our Explainer articles bring context and explanations in plain language to help make sense of complex issues. We're asking readers like you to support us so we can continue to provide helpful context to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
55
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel