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Ní Raghallaigh tenure dominated by RTÉ controversies

Lasting just over 14 months, Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s term as Chair of the RTÉ Board ended abruptly overnight, with an emailed statement of resignation after the Minister for Media Catherin Martin refused to express confidence in her.

Appointed Chair in November 2022, Ms Ní Raghallaigh replaced Moya Doherty who had been the Chair of the RTÉ Board since late 2014.

Originally from Donegal, she was the former chief executive of Ardmore studios and Troy Studios.

She was also managing director of Tyrone Productions and head of finance with the Tribune newspaper group.

She retired as TG4 chairperson and board member in April 2022.

Siún Ní Raghallaigh said it was ‘abundantly clear’ she had lost the confidence of the Minister.

From June last year onwards, Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s tenure was dominated by first the Ryan Tubridy payments controversy, but then the RTÉ barter account, Toy Show The Musical, voluntary redundancies and exit payments.

In her opening address to the Oireachtas Media Commitee on 29 June, she apologised for the “egregious breach of trust with the public.”

She said: “We know that our bond of trust with the public is tarnished. We know that trust is precious, and that once lost, trust is difficult to regain.”

However, that same month she apologised to Ms Martin over a failure to inform her she had asked former RTÉ Director General Dee Forbes to resign.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh had asked Ms Forbes to resign on 16 June, almost a week before the RTÉ payments controversy broke.

At a subsequent meeting with Ms Martin on Saturday 24 June, to discuss the controversy, she did not tell her of the request.

“I apologised for not giving her the information at that time,” Ms Ní Raghallaigh told an Oireachtas commitee the following Wednesday.

Ms Martin accepted the apology saying: “The Chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh did ring me this morning and explained or apologised for any disquiet caused because of that, but it was really to do with due process and individuals rights and I was informed as soon as the decision was taken to suspend, the suspension was put in place.”

One week later, on 5 July she was back before the Oireachtas Media Commitee, her tone had hardened, particularly towards the Executive Board at the time.

She was strongly critical of the “careless stewardship and indifference to proper process, that has sown the seeds of the crisis that has shaken this institution to its core”.

She highlighted the fact it was the Board who “who commissioned the Grant Thornton report and brought the initial facts into the light”.

“I am deeply unhappy at the evident pattern of inconsistency and lack of completeness in the provision of information to date by the Executive.”

Her statement then went on to say she could not give a “blanket yes” to whether she had confidence in the Executive Board.

And it finished with a recommendation that the auditing of RTÉ’s finances be a matter for the Comptroller and Auditor General. This week, the Taoiseach told his parliamentary party meeting the Government was considering such a move.

Siún Ní Raghallaigh seen arriving for a meeting with Catherine Martin earlier this week (File: Rolling News)

In September, she was back before the committees with more documentation furnished to both the Media Committee and PAC.

The third Grant Thornton report into Toy Show The Musical was under way, and the matter of voluntary redundancies was also being examined in a different report.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh was pledging that both reports would be published “as soon as possible”. It would take more than four months.

Before the media committee she also stressed that as part of an overall reform plan “choices must be made in relation to interim funding and long-awaited licence fee reform. The current system is a legacy of a different era; obsolete, redundant, antiquated.”

That was September, and according to Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s statement released overnight, the Renumeration Committee approved the terms of Richard Collins’ departure on 9 October.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh said she informed the department the following day.

However, this week, when she met Minister for Media Catherine Martin, twice, she was asked if the Board knew about the exit packages for Rory Coveney and Richard Collins.

In her statement, she said that she “said that I was aware of them, but they had not come before the full Board”.

It continued: “However, I neglected to recollect that Richard Collins exit package did go before the Renumeration Committee.

“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.”

It was this failure to recollect that Mr Collins’ exit package went before the Renumeration Committee that ultimately sealed her fate.

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In an extraordinary development, Ms Martin declined to express confidence in Ms Ní Raghallaigh on RTÉs Prime Time programme last night.

Instead Ms Ní Raghallaigh was summoned to a meeting at the department this morning, with Ms Martin saying she was affording her “the opportunity to talk to me”.

However, that opportunity was not taken up, and at 1am this morning, Ms Ní Raghallaigh issued a statement saying her position was “no longer tenable” because it was “abundantly clear” she had lost the confidence of the Minister.

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