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Doherty agreed RTÉ board approval needed for musical

A report into Toy Show The Musical shows that former chair of the RTÉ Board, Moya Doherty, agreed that board approval was required for the project as spending on it was over €2 million.

However, the report also shows that Ms Doherty accepts that no formal vote was taken by the board approving the project.

The details emerged as an updated version of the Grant Thornton report into the musical was released by RTÉ, which names 20 people who consented to being identified in the review.

The original report, which was released last month, was anonymised.

It found that the musical lost €2.27 million and highlighted a failure in generally accepted accounting practices in the way sponsorship money was recorded in RTÉ’s books.

The updated report now reveals the identities of some of those who attended a so-called “Combo meeting” on 29 March 2022, where Toy Show The Musical was discussed.

They included Ms Doherty as well as board members Ian Kehoe, Anne O’Leary, Daire Hickey and Connor Murphy, as well as the then RTÉ director general, Dee Forbes.

Also present were two RTÉ executive board members, Rory Coveney and Paula Mullooly, as well as four other individuals who were creators of the musical and external consultants, including Julian Erskine.

Ms Doherty told Grant Thornton that the project was presented on 28 April 2022 by the executive to the board.

“Every Board member had the opportunity to ask questions, raise objections or disapprove of the project,” she is quoted in the report as saying.

“There were no objections raised by any Board member to the proposed expenditure. The practice at Board meetings was to reach consensus if possible and if a consensus was reached no formal vote was taken.”

The report also states that on the basis that no board member objected to the decision to proceed with the project, Ms Doherty suggested that “this means at the very least there was implicit approval from all Board members to progressing the production”.

However, the report also now reveals which of the board members gave what response to Grant Thornton when asked whether they considered board approval had ever been given for the project.

For example, Mr Kehoe said: “The project never came to ARC or board for approval. It was announced by the time it came to Board”.

While another board member, Ms O’ Leary said “There was no approval implied or otherwise. The project was presented as a fait acompli [sic].”

However, another board member, Deborah Kelleher, said: “Implicit/tacit approval was given by the Board.”

While board member David Harvey said: “I stated [to Grant Thornton] tacit approval – But there was simply no choice.”

The report also now reveals that it was external consultant, Julian Erskine, who asked RTÉ executive board member, Rory Coveney, whether consideration had been given to pulling the show because initial ticket sales had been low in the first few days after they went on sale.

It also shows that over the following week, despite a strong advertising push on all RTÉ channels, only a further 2,000 tickets were sold and at this point Mr Erskine expressed his concerns to Mr Coveney.

But Mr Coveney told Grant Thornton: “We were locked in at that stage, reputationally, every other way. The costs were largely committed. We were up and running. I think it wouldn’t have been tenable to have pulled it.”

While Ms Doherty told the authors of the probe: “In my experience it would be unprecedented to pull a show after three or four days ticket sales.”

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