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Call for former RTÉ DG and Chair to address committee

The Chair of the Oireachtas Media Committee has called on the former Director General of RTÉ Dee Forbes, and former RTÉ Chair Moya Doherty, to make themselves available for its next sitting on 14 February.

A report published yesterday by a legal firm appointed by RTÉ to conduct a review of voluntary exit packages found that ten departures did not satisfy the requirements of a redundancy within the meaning of the Redundancy Payments Acts.

McCann Fitzgerald’s report also found that an exit package for former chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe was not brought before the broadcaster’s executive board, but had been agreed with former director general Dee Forbes.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Ms Smyth said the participation of Ms Forbes and Ms Doherty is ”key to any of the Oireachtas hearings because they seem to be the key people who did know everything that was going on”.

Ms Smyth said it is very difficult to get to the bottom of what happened regarding the recent reports into Toy Show The Musical and the voluntary exit programmes without hearing from Ms Forbes.

”I think it is really important that they [Ms Forbes and Ms Doherty] do come forward because there is a huge mess left behind for the rest of the staff to pick up the pieces and try to carry RTÉ into a new phase,” Ms Smyth said.

She added that current Director General Kevin Bakhurst has to move RTÉ forward and “instill the confidence of his staff” adding that Government also has to “instill the confidence of the public for those who have not been paying their TV licence and it’s been quite understandable up to this point”.

Ms Smyth said she has made it very clear to the secretariat of the committee that members are looking to extend a renewed invitation to Ms Forbes and to former members of the board such as Ms Doherty, “people who were on the board at the time and can help the Oireachtas committee, the minister and the Government to really bring clarity to this.”

Ms Smyth said ultimately the committee wants to bring closure to the issue and allow the Government to move on and make a decision about a future funding model for public service broadcasting.

“It’s very difficult for the Government to make that decision when the reports are unfolding all the time,” she said.

Ms Smyth also said she hoped that RTÉ’s Director Of Human Resouces, Eimear Cusack, would attend the next hearing.

Ms Smyth said the committee has questions about the exit package that was agreed for RTÉ’s former CFO Breda O’Keefe.

“I think that willingness will be there because they [RTÉ executives] realise that not coming before the committee does create more questions than answers and does have a negative impact on the hearings themselves,” Ms Smyth said.

She added that everybody involved has an onus to attend “out of respect for the staff that they’ve left behind and the RTÉ board.”

“Not all the board members were privy to this information, there was a deliberate attempt not to give some information, another attempt to distort figures,” she said.

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Staff at RTÉ ‘outraged’ after latest report

The chair of the National Union of Journalists Dublin Broadcasting Branch said that RTÉ staff are “disturbed and outraged” after the report into the broadcaster’s voluntary exit programmes.

Emma O Kelly said it was yet another glimpse of the parallel world that exists in RTÉ.

“We are throwing our hands up once again and asking what kind of an organisation we are working for”, she said, particularly as it comes during a staffing review when staff are feeling really vulnerable.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Ms O Kelly said: “People [are] being moved around and there’s a big staffing review that a lot of people have pinned their hopes to.

“But in the midst of all this, people have no confidence that they will be treated fairly by senior management or by HR. There’s no trust and more often not, there is an assumption by people in RTÉ is that you won’t be treated fairly.”

She added that staff do not feel like this kind of treatment is in the past.

Speaking on the same programme, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee said the ongoing issues around RTÉ need to be dealt with as soon as possible.

Brian Stanley said committee wants to hear from RTÉ’s former chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe, as well as HR Director Eimear Cusack.

The report by legal firm McCann Fitzgerald found that Ms O’Keeffe’s exit package was not considered and approved by the RTÉ Executive Board as was required under the rules of the 2017 Voluntary Exit Programme.

Mr Stanley said the public sector broadcaster holds other people to account but at the same time has been engaging in sweetheart deals, abuse of power, false accountancy and appalling corporate governance practices.

He said the PAC wants deal with the issue as soon as possible, issue a report and “move to the end of the line”.

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