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Up to 40 people in TV reception during controversial RTÉ retirement gathering, review finds

The RTÉ review found five breaches of Covid-19 protocols at the event.

RTÉ News managing director Jon Williams (centre) apologised for his failure to observe social distancing guidelines at the gathering.
RTÉ News managing director Jon Williams (centre) apologised for his failure to observe social distancing guidelines at the gathering.

A HEALTH AND safety review carried out by RTÉ into a retirement gathering at the national broadcaster’s campus in Dublin 4 last month found that up to 40 people were in RTÉ’s TV reception area during the event.

The internal review found that there were three breaches of Covid-19 public health advice, one breach of the Plan for Living with Covid-19 Level 5 restrictions and a breach in RTÉ internal Covid-19 protocols.

It said that it was clear from the CCTV footage that a gathering took place which lasted approximately 20 minutes at its peak, from 2pm to 2.20pm on 12 November.

It noted that the timing of the gathering increased the number of people in the area by virtue of the fact that the TV studios had a busy schedule of visitors and it was lunchtime, resulting in a number of people entering and leaving the premises.

The event sparked controversy when photographs of several of RTÉ’s prominent broadcasters seemingly flouting social distancing guidelines were made public. A garda inquiry into the event is ongoing.

The number of people present in the TV reception area during the period ranged from approximately 15 people to approximately 40 people, including those who were there for other purposes and for varying time periods.

An examination of the footage found a number of examples where public health advice was breached in terms of not social distancing, not wearing face coverings, and being in a crowded area.

A small number of non-staff were present, which is not permissible unless such persons are involved in the provision of essential services.

It also noted that there was no evidence of the Covid-19 visitor questionnaire being completed, which is a requirement for all visitors as part of RTÉ’s Covid-19 protocols.

The review noted that there was an “evident departure” from a Covid-19 controlled environment while photos were being taken. This resulted in people “momentarily ignoring public health advice to pose for pictures in an unprotected way”.

The probe made five main recommendations including that all present at the gathering retake RTÉ’s Covid-19 induction training. The online Covid-19 induction training session takes about 20 minutes to complete.

All managers at the broadcaster will also be asked to retake training sessions to ensure that Covid-19 protocols are adhered to.

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In its concluding comments the review said that “immediate steps” will be taken to ensure that that there is a redoubling of effort in RTÉ’s Covid-19 response and in its implementation of protocols.

“The breaches, as occurred, should not have occurred,” the review says.

“It is very disappointing and regrettable that this happened, particularly given the hard work undertaken and our success in keeping our sites safe for staff and visitors. This was a lapse which occurred for a moment in time,” it added.

RTÉ Director General, Dee Forbes said: “These breaches should not have occurred and, as Director General, I am sorry that this happened.

What makes this all the more disappointing is that this incident is not representative of the way our staff conduct their work in general, which is to be absolutely diligent in relation to public health guidelines and Covid-19 protocols.

About the author:

Ceimin Burke

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