RTÉ/Ryan Tubridy over-payment scandal – will there be more revelations to follow this week?

by Rose Barrett
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What a week it has been for our national state broadcaster, RTÉ. Following revelations that during a time when the public believed the national broadcaster had secured an agreement of a sizable reduction in wages for some of its top earners, Tubridy among them, it turns out, he had in fact, received €75,000 extra per annum for several years!

Political commentators across the board have expressed shock and disbelief that an organization as big and experienced as RTÉ, simply didn’t notice the discrepancies in payments declared when the annual audit was examined and prepared for presentation to the Minister.

In this case, ‘the Minister’ is Catherine Martin above, Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media of Ireland. Having met with met Siún Ní Raghallaigh, Chair of RTÉ Board of Directors this afternoon, the Green Party Minister sought assurances that corporate governance and the financial culture at RTÉ must change, pending a full review.

Already, the popular radio and TV presenter has been laid off hosting his daily morning radio show. For Director General Dee Forbes, the action was swift and brutal – Ms Forbes was ‘suspended’ on Wednesday last, with the national broadcaster refusing to comment any further, pending an investigation.

Popular presenter Ryan Tubridy is pictured with performers Deborah Addeji (7) and Louis Hanna (5) at last year’s Toy Show
Picture Andres Poveda

Tubridy’s initial defense was that the additional payments were between RTÉ and his agent, before he received final payment. The ‘errors’ lay with RTÉ presenting its accounts, he stated. The national broadcaster confirmed it had agreed an additional €75,000 income bonus for Mr Tubridy which was to come from a commercial partner, more like a sponsorship deal whereby the presenter would agree a number of personal appearances per annum.

The €75,000 was paid in 2020 but when it was not renewed the following year, RTÉ made the payment directly to Mr Tubridy’, ‘s agent, and the presenter received a total of €150,000 for 2021 and 2022, along with his very generous remuneration. And the payments continued thereafter, adding another €345,000 to Tubridy’s earnings.

Joe Duffy, Ray Darcy, Claire Byrne, Miriam O’Callaghan and Brendan O’Connor are among the national broadcaster’s top earners.

Commentators today begged the question, will there be further revelations to follow?

Hopefully not,  in a time when members of the general public are struggling to cope with the ever rising cost of living. Post Covid, everyone is simply feeling the pinch. Energy costs continue to escalate as the Russian-Ukrainian war shows no sign of abating and an un-noticed payment of this magnitude is unconceivable to most

Dublin TD Róisín Shortall described the overpayments as a’grubby secret’ and hopes there are no more surprises to come

Deputy Róisín Shortall (Dublin West Constituency) as spokesperson on Health, Finance, Public Expenditure & Reform for the Social Democrats on RTÉ Radio One today, stated: “To date, RTÉ has enjoyed high levels of confidence and trust with the public, with the national broadcaster’s website being the most widely use source for information.

“This incident has done serious damage to maintaining confidence in the public sector broadcaster.”

She questioned who actually signed off on the €75,000 arrangement and why did the annual audit not pick up on this?? It was she stated “a grubby secret” and she hoped there were no more to come.

Deputies Eoin O’Broin (SF), Fine Gael’s Martin Heydon and Ms Shortall all welcomed the scrutinization of the accounts presented to Ms Martin’s office and looked forward to the Grant Thornton report over the coming days.

Deputy O’Bróin said new programme procedures must be put in place immediately and the resolution, and the way to restore public confidence in the national broadcaster lay in the hands of senior management at RTÉ.

Given RTÉ has a €300m turnover and over 1,800 employees, these two tier hidden payments cannot go unpunished and RTÉ going forward must be transparent in all its finances.

But if neither the board, nor the persons scrutinising the annual audits noticed the annual €75,000 worth of undeclared, additional payments, who is going to keep an eye on the scrutineers?

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