Catherine Martin ‘not ruling out’ requesting RTE board resignations

Major reports into governance at the crisis-hit broadcaster are due next month.

Minister Catherine Martin
Catherine Martin Minister Catherine Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Media Minister Catherine Martin has said she is not ruling out seeking resignations at RTE as she awaits recommendations from two expert reviews into governance at the national broadcaster.

Ms Martin has said the board should remain in place “for now” to facilitate accountability before the Oireachtas and provide stability during a period of reform.

It comes after an independent report into RTE’s Toy Show The Musical, which recorded more than 2.2 million euros in losses after a single season at Dublin’s Convention Centre in 2022.

The report found that the musical required board approval but it was not sought or provided, and also identified additional costs of 69,000 euros – bringing the total losses to 2,272,859 euros.

Ms Martin said the Grant Thornton report into the controversy made for “grim reading” and highlighted very serious failings in governance, oversight, risk assessment and “bizarre accounting”.

Speaking to reporters in Dublin, she said: “It demonstrates complete dysfunctionality at the time between the executive and the board.”

Ms Martin said five current board members who were in place at the time of the RTE musical should remain.

The minister said “there will be accountability” for failings at the station as she awaits recommendations from two wide-ranging probes into RTE which were commissioned by the Government.

She said the Government’s independent expert reviews are taking a broader look at culture, governance and HR practices inside RTE and will bring forward recommendations before the end of February.

Asked if anyone would be fired from the RTE board, Ms Martin said: “I’m not ruling anything in or out. I don’t want to pre-empt those reports.”

She added: “It wouldn’t make sense for me to ask them to do their work and make a decision now before their recommendations.”

Asked if the responsibility for the musical’s failure actually lay with the members of the broadcaster’s executive, Ms Martin said: “I think we have to look at both and remember the board members are voluntary and the executive were very well paid.

“Also that March meeting, we also need to look at how figures changed that the executive discussed in relation to ticket sales and by the time the briefing was done to some members of the board.”

Kevin Bakhurst and Siun Ni Raghallaigh
RTE pay revelations Kevin Bakhurst and Siun Ni Raghallaigh (Brian Lawless/PA)

Further asked if she had confidence in the executive, she said a lot of the members had since left and there was a new interim leadership team which was working well.

Ms Martin said decisions on the leadership team were for director-general Kevin Bakhurst and her relationship was directly with the chairwoman of the board Siun Ni Raghallaigh.

She said she had been assured by Mr Bakhurst and Ms Ni Raghallaigh that all current members of the executive and board will be available to Oireachtas committees.

The report also found there was “no justification” for the way the broadcaster recorded 75,000 euros in advertising money and that the musical would have struggled to break even under the proposed number of shows.

The report does not publish any names and refers only to those interviewed as Person 1 through to Person 26.

Ms Martin said this decision was made for legal reasons but that the removal of people’s names from the report was a “distraction”.

Asked about the anonymity within the Grant Thornton report commissioned by RTE, the minister said the decision was made by the auditing body in order to get co-operation and it had to be respected.

She said that there could have been a risk of legal challenges, adding: “I can understand that. It’s not ideal but that is the case.”

Asked if names would be removed from the Government’s reports, Ms Martin said she had not been told that they would be anonymised.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland had a rules-based immigration system
Leo Varadkar visits Galway Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland had a rules-based immigration system (Brian Lawless/PA)

Earlier on Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also expressed confidence in RTE’s board but added that its members have further questions to answer.

He said: “What I have to say is that I’m very disappointed that Toy Show The Musical went ahead without board approval. That’s not correct, and it shouldn’t have happened, and I don’t think we can see that happening again.

“I’m not sure the board members are entirely responsible for that. The executive had a role to play in that as well.”

Ms Martin said she would like a Cabinet decision on the funding model for RTE before summer, adding that she thinks direct exchequer funding should be examined.

Mr Varadkar also said he would like to legislate for a new funding model for RTE this year to be in place for 2025.