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Former RTE Chief Financial OIfficer Breeda O Keefe and Former chair of the RTÉ board Moya Doherty (right) arriving for the Joint Committee on Tourism , Culture, Arts , Sport and Media committee in Leinster House, Dublin. Sam Boal
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RTÉ payments scandal: Five things we learned from another marathon Media Committee

It was a bruising affair as serving and former leadership from the State broadcaster.

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER mea culpa moment at a Dáil committee for the RTÉ board. 

It was a bruising six-hour affair with serving and former leadership from the State broadcaster getting another grilling from members of the Joint Committee Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media. 

Questions in the latest hearing were framed, for the most part, by the release of itemised spreadsheets of expenditure in the barter accounts.   

It feels like a lifetime ago since it emerged that RTÉ did not disclose that it paid presenter Ryan Tubridy around €345,000 above his salary over six years, it’s clear that the crisis isn’t going to subside for the broadcaster anytime soon.

Here’s what we learned.

Richard Collins stands by comment that there was effectively one barter account despite it being revealed there are multiple

The Q&A session got underway as Kerry TD Brendan Griffin immediately asked Chief Financial Officer Richard Collins why he told the committee last week that there was only one barter account, when last night’s revelations show that there were three barter accounts in the names of Astus, Active and Miroma.

Collins claimed that he was taking a “consolidated view” and that there’s “three companies feeding into that barter account”.

He likened it to a “weekly shopping bill” where the total may come to €200, but could be divided between different supermarkets, and are “all treated in the same way”.

The Soho House membership 

It was revealed in the document trawl that RTÉ took out a membership of the exclusive Soho House private members club in London at a cost of €4,200.

The RTÉ executives had their answer for that one. Head of Commercial Geraldine O’Leary said that the club membership was retained for meetings in London because they didn’t have access to an office as it had been closed down previously.

Geraldine O’Leary said the membership is in her name and it’s paid on an annual basis. 

She said approximately 5% of RTÉ’s business comes from UK clients. She says RTÉ used to have offices in London to meet clients, but as they no longer have offices in the city, they now meet clients at Soho House instead. It is just used for meeting rooms, not for accommodation. 

Asked if it is the intention to retain the Soho House membership on an ongoing basis, the committee is told that will be a matter for the incoming commercial director. 

Former chair denies there was fraud in how the station handles its finances

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Moya Doherty said that no fraud has been committed, despite there being a lack of transparency in its governance procedures. 

“I take comfort in the legal advice given to Siun [Ní Raghallaigh RTE chairperson] that there is no fraud involved, lack of transparency, misguided and misleading yes, but under the legal advice right now I believe and I will ask the chair, to confirm this that no fraud has been committed,” she said.  

Doherty, in response to a question by Deputy Mattie McGrath, said that people would cooperate with a garda inquiry if it was deemed necessary. 

Doherty said she was in the dark about a lot of what was going on in RTE. She said that there were “endless opportunities” for her to be told about some information now being examined by the Oireachtas, and that a “deliberate decision” was made by executives to keep her uninformed.

The Toy Show: The Musical financial disaster 

Documentation given to the Oireachtas Committee confirmed losses at Toy Show: The Musical reached €2.2 million.

The RTÉ Director of Strategy Rory Coveney said that the loss was not down to lack of effort.

Documents seen by The Journal reveal that the inaugural Toy Show The Musical last year made just €495,961 in revenue against costs of €2,699,193. In total, the project made a loss of €2,203,231 and that loss, Coveney confirmed, was paid for out of RTE funds.

Coveney sought to defend it: “I’m not sure if anyone in here was at the show, but those that attended it absolutely loved it, particularly children.

“It clearly wasn’t a commercial success but it wasn’t from a lack of effort from everyone involved.” 

An RTÉ employee had the loan of a car for five years

Fianna Fail senator Timmy Dooley asked RTE’s interim deputy director-general Adrian Lynch whether any personalities at the broadcaster were in possession of a car as a result of being brand ambassadors for motoring companies.

Lynch revealed one RTE staff member had secured the loan of a car for five years and that the loan period was “not approved”.

The RTE personality returned the car “yesterday”

“I’m aware of one instance where somebody had a loan of car. My understanding is that car has been returned and that individual is a staff member of RTE,” Mr Lynch said.

With reporting from Carl Kinsella and Eoghan Dalton.