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RTÉ stars apologise for social distancing breaches at 'impromptu' gathering in Montrose

Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan were among those to pose for photographs while not wearing masks.

McCullagh (L) and O'Callaghan (R) pictured with the departing employee.
McCullagh (L) and O'Callaghan (R) pictured with the departing employee.

RTÉ AND SOME of its top stars have apologised after being present at a gathering in Montrose where social distancing was not fully observed and presenters posed for photographs.

News presenters Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan were among those to issue apologies after being pictured not wearing masks at the gathering.

The gathering took place on the final day of work for a long-time employee, with the above named presenters and managing director of RTÉ News Jon Williams each posing for photographs.

A report on what happened featured on the front page of The Irish Sun newspaper this morning.

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

RTÉ said in a statement that it 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 apologies and has published some of the photographs on its website

Williams said he was “not thinking” about his actions. 

“I deeply regret not thinking through the consequences of a momentary lapse of judgement. It was wrong and I’m very sorry,” he said. 

Dobson said: “I deeply regret what was a momentary but nonetheless serious lapse of judgement for which I unreservedly apologise”.

McCullagh apologised for “an error of judgement which I deeply regret” and O’Callaghan made similar comments.

“I am so sorry and deeply regret and apologise for an error of judgement on my part,” she said. 

PastedImage-32550 Wlliams (C) said he was 'not thinking' when the photograph was taken.

In a statement about the incident, the broadcaster said that “RTÉ takes public health advice with the utmost seriousness and has implemented detailed workplace protocols”. 

The broadcaster added that no Covid-19 cases had “so far been transmitted on campus” during the pandemic. 

On the gathering itself, RTÉ said most of what happened adhered to guidelines.

“While social distancing was observed overall and in compliance with RTÉ’s site protocols, as photos in the press today show, a number of those present briefly posed for a photo with their departing colleague, before returning to work,” RTÉ said.

These contacts were not close contacts as defined by HSPC guidelines. They were brief casual contacts which, while well intentioned, were unnecessarily risky and should not have happened.

“RTÉ and those involved regret this occurred. Over the last few days we have reminded all staff of their obligations to keep both themselves and the site safe, particularly over the very busy few weeks we are heading into.”

NUJ secretary Seamus Dooley has welcomed RTÉ’s apology but he says that the incident should not have happened and it has potentially damaged RTÉ’s ability to hold others to account.

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“RTE workers have worked extremely hard since March and have held public figures to account for their actions,” said Dooley.

I have been contacted by a number of members who believe this incident has the capacity to undermine that hard-earned trust and confidence.

In August, RTÉ said that it would not be proceeding with future plans for projects with its former broadcaster Seán O’Rourke due to his attendance at the infamous  Oireachtas Golf Society dinner in Clifden.

Additional reporting by Press Association

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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