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RTÉ pay scandal

What we learned from Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly's Oireachtas committee appearances

The presenter and his agent went before the Public Accounts Committee and the Media Committee for lengthy hearings.

IT WAS A gruelling day for RTÉ presenter Ryan Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly as they went before two Oireachtas committees for lengthy questioning sessions.

Answering questions from members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and then the Media Committee, Tubridy and Kelly set out their version of events in the ongoing saga surrounding secret payments made to Tubridy.

This morning, RTÉ disputed the statements made by the two men to the committees.

The committee sessions shed some light on how the tripartite deal with Renault was made, but questions remain unanswered.

630Camden Bar The Camden Bar in Dublin was one of several pubs showing the proceedings live Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

Tubridy insists he didn’t quit the Late Late over the scandal

Tubridy said in his opening statement, and reiterated several times over the course of the day, that his decision to step down as host of The Late Late Show, which he announced in March, had nothing to do with the payments scandal, which became public in June.

He said the decision to quit the Late Late was “deeply personal” and was one he made last August.

He said in his opening statement that when he told his family and his agent he was deciding to leave, they were surprised, but he said he was suffering from burnout following the Covid-19 pandemic.

When being questioned by John Brady TD, he said: “I will be here until the last dog barks until you believe me that that decision came from my heart and soul and that the kernel of it was last August.”

Kelly claims that former RTÉ CFO was involved in underwriting Renault deal

Kelly claimed that Breda O’Keeffe, the former Chief Financial Officer of RTÉ, was involved in the deal between Renault and Tubridy being underwritten by the broadcaster.

In a series of emails exchanged between Kelly and O’Keeffe in February 2020 during contract talks – which were given to the Public Accounts Committee this morning – O’Keeffe told Kelly: “We can meet you halfway and increase the fee offer to €435,000 per contract year … €75,000 from a commercial relationship. We have progressed discussions with a 3rd party and look forward to discussing this with you.”

Kelly claimed these emails show that RTÉ’s former Chief Financial Officer was involved in the Renault deal and the decision of RTÉ to underwrite it.

RTÉ has rejected this claim.

unnamed Eamonn Farrell / Eamonn Farrell / /

Kelly said that RTÉ executive members who have appeared before Oireachtas committees have sought to “distance” themselves from the deal, and to make it seem as though the agreement was made on a Zoom call with former Director-General Dee Forbes.

Appearing before PAC last week, O’Keeffe said: “My recollection is that Mr Tubridy’s agent requested that the commercial agreement be underwritten by RTÉ and this was refused. This continued to be my position and, as far as I am aware, that of the director general, head of content and the RTÉ solicitor, up to the date of my departure from RTÉ in March 2020.

“I was not aware that any guarantee had issued until I heard about it last week in media reports,” she added.

‘Consultancy fees’

Kelly alleged that it was RTÉ’s idea to label invoices related to Tubridy’s fees as “consultancy fees”.

When asked by TD Alan Dillon whether he had acted “recklessly”, Kelly said: “We have always followed process every single time.”

Dillion asks if Kelly colluded with RTÉ to conceal invoices as “consultancy fees”.

“We’re a small company of eight people. [RTÉ is] a massive company with accountants and auditors. We were just following process,” said Kelly.

580Ryan Tubridy At Committees Noel Kelly Sasko Lazarov / Sasko Lazarov / /

He added that the “lack of credibility” lies with RTÉ when asked why he invoiced a company in the UK that he had never heard of.

John Brady TD asked of the invoices: “You issued the invoices labeled consultancy fees, knowing that there was no consultancy fee?”

Kelly repeated that he “acted under instruction from RTÉ”.

Kelly also repeatedly said that these invoices he drew up for “consultancy services” were not “false”.

TD Ciaran Cannon asked if Kelly had not considered whether these invoices would lead to “reputational damage” to both him and Tubridy.

Kelly once again repeated that he did what RTÉ told him to do.

Tubridy says he wants to get back on air ‘as soon as possible’

Tubridy said he wants to be back on radio with RTÉ “as soon as possible” but admitted his future at the broadcaster is “touch and go”.

Taking aim at the broadcaster in his opening statement, he said he had been “dragged into a mess not of my own making”.

662Ryan Advert A poster for recruitment firm Eirkoo

He went on to tell Fine Gael’s Colm Burke: “I don’t have any doubt, I want to get back to work on the radio as soon as possible”.

Social Democrats TD Catherine Murphy said she found it “strange” that Tubridy wants to go back to work with RTÉ “given all of the issues that you’ve documented in your booklet and the opening statement”.

Tubridy replied that it is the past three weeks that have been damaging but that it was “not necessarily RTÉ as an institution” that had been harmed.

He also offered to publish his contract on an annual basis as part of the “cathartic” process going on within the broadcaster.

“In the event that I do keep my job, and it’s touch and go from my understanding of it at the moment, I’d be happy to suggest that in the future we’d have a situation where you would publish my contract on an annual basis, with a few obviously redactions for personnel or what have you, with the money and the salary and the earnings there straight up,” he said.

“I have nothing to hide. Put the contract out, put it online, tell everyone how much, don’t wait for three years then have this codology that can happen all this time later.”

Toy Show: The Musical

Kelly said at the Media Committee that an idea for a ‘Toy Show Live’ was pitched, but never happened, and was unrelated to Toy Show: The Musical, which ran in the Convention Centre last year.

Earlier, at PAC, Tubridy said he had “nothing to do with” the derided ‘Toy Show: The Musical’ project.

When asked in the committee whether he was aware if there were staff members from the Late Late Show seconded to work directly on the Toy Show The Musical, Tubridy said the project was “something I have nothing to do with”.

Tubridy said that there may have been people working in parallel but that seconded is “probably too strong a word”.


He later said: “Toy Show Live never came to anything … the musical was a totally separate entity.

“Given the nature of my job there was no way I was going to be in a position to get involved.”

He rejected suggestions that there was tension or animosity over his decision not to be involved with the musical, which made a loss of over €2 million.

Tubridy’s pay from 2017 to 2019

One question still not fully answered is why Tubridy was paid more than what RTÉ said he was paid from 2017 to 2019.

The headline figure linked to this question is €345,000 – the difference between his publicly stated salary and what he actually earned over six years.

We know that €225,000 of this relates to Tubridy’s commercial deal with Renault dating to 2020.

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Of that, €75,000 was paid by Renault in 2020, and a further €150,000 was paid by RTÉ (which guaranteed the payment) in 2021 and 2022 after the car manufacturer pulled out of the deal.

But the remaining €120,000 paid to Tubridy from 2017 to 2019 has not been accounted for and remains something of a mystery.

Tubridy and Kelly today claimed that RTÉ actually understated some of his earnings for those years – despite being asked by them to not do so.

They claim that the €120,000 was always part of Tubridy’s annual salary across the three-year period and an accountancy treatment by RTE led them to ‘offset’ a waived loyalty bonus against the three years, understating the earnings in each of those years. 

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