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RTÉ staff morale ‘miserable’ after exit pay revelations

Morale among staff at RTÉ, which was already miserable, was made even more so following the latest revelations about exit packages for senior executives at the broadcaster, a union official has said.

Chair of the RTÉ sub-committee of the NUJ Trevor Keegan said staff see very little change, and what change is happening is doing so at a “snail-like pace”.

Yesterday, Director General Kevin Bakhurst told the Oireachtas Committee on Media that former RTÉ chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe was paid €450,000 when she left the organisation.

He also confirmed that former executive Rory Coveney, who was Director of Strategy at RTÉ, was given an “exit package”, when he resigned last year.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Keegan said the amount paid to Ms O’Keeffe was shocking to staff, many of whom are working in “shoddy conditions”, but said “it’s an amount that we know she had no wrongdoing in and she was exonerated by the Grant Thornton report.”

Mr Keegan said while there has been some accountability and some people “had fallen on their sword”, they got an exit package to do so.

He said the issue of bogus employment was raised at the committee, where staff, including himself, have missed out on pensions and other entitlement.

“The €450,000 and whatever other exit package Rory Coveney might have gotten could have gone some way to alleviated the stress and strain on those colleagues”, he said.

O’Keeffe redundancy figure ‘staggering’

Speaking on the same programme, Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon described the sum paid to Ms O’Keeffe as “staggering”.

Mr Dillon, who is also a member of the Public Accounts Committee, said there were “audible gasps” at yesterday’s committee hearing when Mr Bakhurst disclosed the figure.

He said while there may be no legal basis for her to repay the €450,000, there is an argument that this was not a redundancy as the position was not eliminated.

“It is evident that this has the hallmark of a golden handshake in the region of €450,000, which is astonishing.”

Mr Dillon said the situation highlighted the lack of control at RTÉ and the absence of proper governance.

“The fact that no one raised their voice when scrutinising these types of decisions and secondly, it also highlights the power that the former director general Dee Forbes had when starting her role in 2016 – became so powerful within just 12 months, that she could override all management controls and authorise payments to the tune of €450,000 in this case.”

In relation to RTÉ Director of Human Resources Eimear Cusack, Mr Dillon said she is on “very shaky ground”.

Ms Cusack told yesterday’s committee hearing that she “did not conceal anything” and “processed something under instruction” when she signed off on Ms O’Keeffe’s departure.

Mr Dillon said her error is being “dismissed as an administrative oversight”, which “raises enormous red flags”.

He added that he believes the Director General needs to do more than reconstituting the executive management board.

Mr Dillon said that Ms Cusack “oversaw the biggest exit package in her time without undertaking the correct checks and balances, and there needs to be consequences in relation to that.

“And while he [Kevin Bakhurst] has faith in her as they transition to a new governance and management structure, I think he really needs to reflect in relation to this revelation.”

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