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Home / News / Minister contradicts RTÉ Board claim over exit package

Minister contradicts RTÉ Board claim over exit package

The Minister for Media has said the former Secretary General of her department has “no recollection” of being told that an exit package for former RTÉ CFO Richard Collins was approved by the RTÉ Board.

Catherine Martin was speaking after the Board said its former chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh told the Secretary General at the Department of Media in October 2023 that it approved the exit package for Mr Collins.

In a statement, the RTÉ Board said: “The Remuneration Committee met on October 9th 2023, to consider the recommendation arising from the mediation process relating to Richard Collins.

“The Director General attended that meeting. The recommendation was approved, by the Remuneration Committee, as is its delegated powers under its Terms of Reference.”

“The day after this meeting of the Remuneration Committee, October 10th 2023, Siún contacted the Secretary General of the Department directly by telephone and updated her about the meeting of the Remuneration Committee, and its outcome – i.e., that it approved an agreement with Richard Collins.

“The RTÉ Board was updated about this approval at its next meeting, October 26th. Approval by the full RTÉ Board was not required.”

Siún Ní Raghallaigh said it is 'abundantly clear' that she no longer has the confidence of Media Minister Catherine Martin
Siún Ní Raghallaigh said it was ‘abundantly clear’ that she no longer had the confidence of Catherine Martin

Speaking at Government Buildings this evening, Minister Martin said she is aware of suggestions that Ms Ní Raghallaigh had informed the department that the board had approved the package for Mr Collins.

However, Ms Martin said she discussed the matter with the former Secretary General yesterday and today to check if this was the case.

She said: “She has been clear that while she was informed by phone that the independent mediation process on an exit package for Mr Collins had finally reached a conclusion, she has no recollection of being told that it was approved by the board’s remuneration committee.”

The former Secretary General remembers receiving a phone call from Ms Ní Raghallaigh that the independent mediation process had been completed, into two exit packages

”She was not informed that there was an official approval by the board,” Ms Martin added.

Minister Martin said she had asked the then Chair at two meetings on Monday and Wednesday of this week if she or the Board had played any role in approving either of two recent severance packages to senior RTÉ executives.

Ms Martin said Ms Ní Raghallaigh told her the board had not approved the exit packages on both days.

However, the Minister said Ms Ní Raghallaigh contacted the Department of Media yesterday and said that “what she had told me on Monday and Wednesday was inaccurate.”

She said: “Ms Ní Raghallaigh said that she now remembered that the Remuneration Committee of the RTÉ Board, which she chaired, had met to approve the Richard Collins exit package last October.

“The fact that she contacted the Department with this information indicates she was aware she needed to correct the record.”

Last night, Ms Ní Raghallaigh said her position was “no longer tenable” because it was “abundantly clear” she had lost the confidence of Minister Martin.

The minister had earlier appeared on RTÉ’s Prime Time where she refused to express confidence in Ms Ní Raghallaigh.

Ms Martin said she had sought a meeting with Ms Ní Raghallaigh after being “misinformed” by her on two occasions this week in regard to board approval of recent exit packages.

This evening, Ms Martin said she was “deeply disappointed” that Ms Ní Raghallaigh “had not given her accurate information”.

She said: “I believed the failure to properly answer my questions was so serious that it required a formal meeting.”

Ms Martin also said she “conveyed the situation to the coalition leaders on Thursday evening in order to keep them fully informed.”

She said it would have been her “preference not to deal with this matter live on air.”

The interview last night was pre-arranged and Ms Martin said: “Given how the situation had evolved yesterday and in the interests of transparency, I felt I had to address the matter.”

A spokesperson for the board confirmed that prior to Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s resignation, no member of the board had been designated as deputy chair.

As well as the chair position now being vacant, there are currently also three other vacant seats on the board.

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In a statement earlier today, Mr Bakhurst said Ms Ní Raghallaigh had been “an excellent Chair” who would be “sorely missed”.

He said she had been a “great support to me throughout an incredibly challenging time for RTÉ”.

“Without Siún’s experience, insight, guidance and optimism, beginning the process of meaningfully transforming RTÉ would have been a bigger challenge”, Mr Bakhurst said.

He praised “her integrity, hard work, commitment to public service”.

Read Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s statement in full

In her statement last night, Ms Ní Raghallaigh said she had not made an “intentional misrepresentation” to Ms Martin.

She said: “Under the new terms of reference of the Remuneration Committee of the RTÉ Board, all changes to executive pay and terms must be approved by committee.

“This was introduced as part of a wide range of measures to strengthen controls and fully restore public trust in corporate governance at RTÉ.

“Kevin Bakhurst brought the exit of Rory Coveney from RTÉ (announced on Sunday 9 July) to my attention, while the exit of Richard Collins was brought to and approved by the Remuneration Committee of the Board of RTÉ on 9 October 2023.

Siún Ní Raghallaigh with Kevin Bakhurst ahead of a previous meeting with the minister

“I informed the Department about the process which led to Richard’s departure from RTÉ, on 10 October, the day after it was approved at the Remuneration Committee.

“I met with the Minister and her officials, with the Director General, on two occasions for more than three hours this week, dealing with multiple questions across a wide range of issues.

“I was asked if the Board knew about the exit packages for Rory Coveney and Richard Collins. I said that I was aware of them, but they had not come before the full board.

“However, I neglected to recollect that Richard Collins’ exit package did go before the Remuneration Committee.”

She added: “This was not an intentional misrepresentation, and I subsequently contacted the Department to clarify the details and remind them that I had previously appraised them of the matter in October.

“Serving as Chair of the RTÉ Board is a privilege which requires the confidence of the Minister. It is abundantly clear that I no longer do.

“My resignation is a source of sadness to me, but it is unavoidable.

“There is a very urgent need for the funding model of RTÉ to be restored and for the transformation process to continue apace. I do not want this matter to distract from that. That must remain our unswerving collective objective.”

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