Ireland

Leo Varadkar says former RTÉ chairwoman’s reputation should not be ‘tarnished’

The Dublin government is to appoint a new chairman of the crisis-hit national broadcaster on Tuesday.

RTÉ Chairperson of the board Siún Ní Raghallaigh (centre), board member Anne O'Leary (right) and staff representative to the board Robert Shortt (left) arriving at Leinster House, Dublin, to appear before the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, to speak in relation to the controversy around Ryan Tubridy's misreported salary payments. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire
RTÉ Chairperson of the board Siún Ní Raghallaigh (centre), board member Anne O'Leary (right) and staff representative to the board Robert Shortt (left) arriving at Leinster House, Dublin, to appear before the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and RTÉ Chairperson of the board Siún Ní Raghallaigh (centre), board member Anne O'Leary (right) and staff representative to the board Robert Shortt (left) arriving at Leinster House, Dublin in June last year, to appear before the Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media, to speak in relation to the controversy around Ryan Tubridy's misreported salary payments. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The reputation of the former chairwoman of RTE should not be “tarnished”, the Taoiseach has said.

Siún Ní Raghallaigh released a statement on Monday saying her resignation last month was an “enforced dismissal” by Irish media minister Catherine Martin which was seemingly designed to “traduce” her reputation.



It comes as the Government is set to name Terence O’Rourke as the new chairman of the board of the crisis-hit national broadcaster.

Following a recommendation from the media minister, Mr O’Rourke’s appointment was agreed by coalition leaders on Monday night.

It will be announced, along with two other new board appointments, following approval from Cabinet on Tuesday.

Mr O’Rourke, originally from Co Monaghan, is a former KPMG managing partner and the current chairman of ESB.

It comes after the former chairwoman of the board hit out at Ms Martin, saying she had no option but to resign after the minister refused to express confidence in her during a television interview.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ms Ní Raghallaigh has admitted she gave the wrong information to the minister, who “lost trust in what she was hearing”.

He said: “I think they’re both women in good standing, in my view. What happened, essentially, between them is the relationship broke down, trust broke down.”

However, he added: “I don’t believe that Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s reputation should be tarnished by all of this. Sometimes these happen – misunderstandings, relationships break down. It does not necessarily mean that anyone did anything wrong or lacked competence, in my view.”

Asked if Ms Martin should answer questions on the matter before Oireachtas committees, he told Morning Ireland: “I’m absolutely sure Ms Martin will be happy to respond to what the former RTÉ chair, Siún Ní Raghallaigh, has said.”

In her statement on Monday, Ms Ní Raghallaigh also criticised Ms Martin for “actively taking a hands-off approach” to the widening scandal at RTÉ and accused her of not assisting with falling TV licence revenues.

Appearing on Prime Time on February 22, the minister said she was disappointed in Ms Ní Raghallaigh, saying she had been misinformed about the chairwoman’s role in approving an exit package for former RTÉ chief financial officer Richard Collins.

The minister was criticised for her handling of the situation, with opposition TDs claiming she had effectively sacked the chairwoman live on air.

In a statement, Ms Ní Raghallaigh said: “If the minister had decided that she no longer wanted me as chair, that is her privilege.

“However, I cannot remain silent about the manner of my enforced dismissal, which seemed designed to traduce my reputation.”

However, Ms Martin responded by saying she needed to be able to rely on getting “clear, timely and accurate information” from the former chairwoman of the RTÉ board.

She added: “This is particularly important at such a challenging time in RTÉ’s history.”

Commenting on the new appointments, Ms Martin said: “An important step forward for RTÉ will be taken when I seek Government approval for the appointment of a new chair and additional board members.

“Upon appointment I will seek to meet the new chair and the director-general in the coming days.”

The Public Accounts Committee is to make its recommendations after months of controversy at the national broadcaster later on Tuesday.

Mr Varadkar said it would be a “good idea” to put RTÉ under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

He said he hopes the overnment will make a decision on that in the “next few weeks”.

Mr Varadkar said the ggovernment has also set a target for a decision on the future funding model of public service broadcasting by the summer recess.

Minister for Finance Michael McGrath said that he has “no doubt” Ms Martin will want to address some of the issues raised by Ms Ní Raghallaigh.

Speaking ahead of Cabinet, Mr McGrath added: “I have confidence in Catherine Martin. She has been dealing with a very difficult situation over the last eight months in RTE and gave a very comprehensive account of her actions last week before the Oireachtas committee.

“I have no doubt really that she will address some of the issues that were raised in Ms Ní Raghallaigh statement.

“We, as a government, are trying to move forward on this process with the appointment of a new chair.

“We anxiously await the final two reports that are due so we have the complete picture that will enable us to make a collective agreement as a government in relation to future funding for RTÉ and public service content more generally.

“I think it is time to move on and over the weeks and months ahead we will make decisions and ensure that RTÉ is on sustainable footing going forward is what we want to see.

“The government is committed to making a decision over the months ahead.”