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File image of media minister Catherine Martin Leah Farrell
RTÉ

Government were made aware of new RTÉ exit package review arrangements in October

The changes were revealed during a PAC hearing on 12 October where staff of Media Minister Catherine Martin were present.

LAST UPDATE | 3 hrs ago

THE DEPARTMENT OF Media and the Government were made aware that the new terms of reference for the RTÉ remuneration committee would include reviews of exit package arrangements in October last year.

During a Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on 12 October, TDs and committee members were told that the review remit of RTÉ’s financial oversight team was extended to include exit payments in September.

Despite Media Minister Catherine Martin claiming this week that she had not been told of the changes and been “misled” by the subcommittee’s chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh, The Business Post today has revealed that members of her department were present at the same hearing.

Martin’s claim subsequently led to Ní Raghallaigh resigning shortly after her comments were broadcasted during a live interview on RTÉ’s Prime Time on Thursday.

The minister said at a follow-up press conference on Friday that her department was made aware of the changes, which were agreed upon by RTÉ management on 26 September, but claimed the annex in the letter provided to the department about these changes did not mentioned the new exit package clause.

However, former and current senior members of staff from Martin’s department were present at a PAC hearing where the broadcaster’s former legal director informed the committee that the remit of the team had been extended to include exit fees.

When discussing the Remuneration Committee during the hearing, Green Party TD Marc Ó Cáthasaigh asked the former legal director Paula Mullooly if the new arrangements could be shared with PAC.

Mullooly said: “I can share it with the committee.

It is designed to cover not only executive pay and presenters’ pay but also things like exit packages or voluntary exit programmes, VEPs, for executive members. It is more thorough.”

Days after this hearing, Mullooly stepped down from her role in RTÉ. The Journal contacted Ó Cáthasaigh on Friday who was unable to confirm if Mullooly had shared these details with PAC before her departure.

This week, Martin claimed on multiple occasions that she was not made aware by the RTÉ chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh that the extension of the remuneration committee’s terms of reference included exit packages.

Martin also claimed that she asked Ní Raghallaigh to confirm this on two occasions during this week.

river File image of Siún Ní Raghallaigh

Ní Raghallaigh then on Thursday contacted the Department of Media to say she had forgotten about the rearrangements made in September and the committee did in fact review exit packages.

Martin revealed these details on Thursday night, during a pre-arranged live interview, and claimed that she had been misled by Ní Raghallaigh.

This claim ended up costing Ní Raghallaigh her job as she resigned later that night, after the minister failed to express confidence in the RTÉ chair during the interview.

However, during the October hearing, former and current staff members were present when Mullooly informed the committee of these changes. This means Martin should have known of these changes since October, at the earliest.

A spokesman for Martin has downplayed the significance of the PAC discussion in a statement to the Business Post.

The spokesman said it was “not obvious” from the letter sent to the Department in September or the “passing reference” during the October PAC hearing that these new terms had been implemented at the broadcaster.

However, Mullooly had told PAC that the terms of reference had been “a significant rewriting” of the terms of reference, suggesting that these changes had been approved.

Martin has also claimed that RTÉ provided her department with a letter informing her of these changes.

RTÉ this week claimed that it had also informed a former staff member, who was at the PAC hearing, of the changes by phone in October. There was no written record made of this phone call.

Martin ‘must set the record straight’

Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said Martin has to “set the record straight” in front of the Dáil. 

Cullinane told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics: “There is a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency, and – in my view – there is a lack of confidence from the public in relation to how this minister and the Government have handled this issue.”

river (18) File image of Sinn Féin's David Cullinane. Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie / RollingNews.ie

He said Sinn Féin had written to the Ceann Comhairle seeking a question-and-answer session with the minister.

However, minister of state for roads Jack Chambers noted that Martin is going before an Oireachtas Committee on Tuesday and said “she’s been forthright in providing the information”.

Chambers was also speaking on The Week In Politics and said Martin is “willing to give statements before the Dáil” and added that “every member of the Oireachtas can attend the media committee to ask questions”.

Chambers also remarked that Martin was “absolutely focused on transparency and accountability”.

river (21) File image of Jack Chambers Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

He added: “In the context of the polycrisis that we’ve seen in RTÉ over the number of months, multiple reports – internal and external – that’s made decisions around a new (funding) model more difficult for everybody involved.

“That’s why though there will be progress on that this year. There’s been a commitment given by the party leaders and the Government to that.”

Additional reporting by Diarmuid Pepper