Pressure mounts on RTÉ over pay scandal

RTÉ faces a deepening crisis around the hidden payments to its highest earner Ryan Tubridy following Oireachtas media and Public Accounts Committee hearings in recent days. In a week when outgoing director general Dee Forbes tendered her resignation, a number of significant disclosures in Leinster House were made by senior Montrose executives.

Geraldine O’Leary, group head of commercial, told the hearings that the proposal where Late Late Show sponsor Renault agreed to pay Ryan Tubridy €75,000 was agreed between Dee Forbes and the presenter’s agent, Noel Kelly (above), of NK Management, without her or Renault being consulted. The car company agreed to the deal once it was “cost neutral”.

Renault was given a credit by RTÉ equal to the €75,000 paid to Tubridy. The committee also heard that a €120,000 ‘loyalty bonus’ credited for unknown reasons against Tubridy’s earnings between 2017 and 2019 was “not in fact paid”. Richard Collins, chief financial officer, RTÉ, said the matter was being investigated by the broadcaster’s auditors Grant Thornton.


Members of the Dáil committee accused RTÉ executives of using a “slush fund” to spend €275,000 on corporate hospitality. The funds from the barter account included €110,000 on travel and hotels for guests attending the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, ten-year IRFU season tickets at €138,000 and €26,000 on the 2019 Champions League final in Madrid.

Adrian Lynch, acting director general, RTÉ, told the Oireachtas committee that it was “impossible” and “not tenable” for Ryan Tubridy to be on the air right now for “editorial reasons”. He was unable to confirm when Tubridy might be expected to return to host his Radio One breakfast show. In the meantime, satirist Oliver Callan is presenting the show.

Commenting on the RTÉ crisis, Irish Times opinion and analysis columnist Justine McCarthy wrote: “Tubridy is paying an excruciating price now. Overnight, he has been recast from hero to zero. While he is blameworthy for not exposing RTÉ’s deceit about his pay, he is less the cause and more the symptom of something amiss in our financial culture.”

The Dáil committees resume next week with requests for other parties to attend.

Speaking from Brussels on the RTÉ crisis, An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar questioned the legality of some of the hidden payments that have been disclosed to date. He also said that RTÉ may need to change its accounting practices, by separating commercial revenue around advertising and sponsorship and the public funds it gets from the TV licence fee.

The Government plans to appoint a governance expert to review RTÉ next week.

Patrick Kielty, who was hired by the national broadcaster to replace Tubridy as Late Late Show presenter, has confirmed that he will be paid €250,000 per 30-show season by RTÉ and a once-off fee of €20,000 for rehearsals and pilot shows before the new season’s run starts in the autumn. It was reported that Kielty waived a €50,000 allowance for expenses.

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