Tubridy: RTE controversy is arguably the best thing that ever happened to me

Ryan Tubridy starts hosting a new show on Virgin Radio in January.

Ryan Tubridy
Ryan Tubridy (Ian West/PA)

RTE’s former highest-paid earner Ryan Tubridy said he was “thrashed” during a controversy which arose following revelations about his pay and an undisclosed commercial deal that was arranged by the national broadcaster.

The controversy saw Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly, as well as senior executives and board members at RTE, called before crunch Oireachtas committees which probed a widening crisis at the broadcaster.

Ultimately, new director-general Kevin Bakhurst decided Tubridy would not return to RTE because “trust had broken down” in the wake of a statement from the former Late Late Show host in relation to a report on his earnings.

In a podcast appearance which was released on Monday, Tubridy said the scandal was “arguably the best thing that ever happened” to him due to his subsequent employment with Virgin Radio in London.

Sinead O’Connor
Sinead O’Connor

In one anecdote, he said Sinead O’Connor showed “generosity and kindness” by offering him a room in her London home.

She said the late singer had also told him he had been “mugged by God in a hoodie”.

Tubridy said: “Blessings come in strange disguises and that’s what happened because arguably the best thing that ever happened to me was what happened to me.

“I always wanted to go to London. I always wanted to investigate radio over there and TV but I never did it. I was thinking about it but I was procrastinating.”

He added: “I was ‘maybe somedaying’ my life away until I was mugged – and it was the best mugging a man could get.

“Because once the dark clouds dissipated – and they did, they’re still dissipating a little bit to be honest – but once they started to make way for decision making and purposeful planning, everything started to happen.”

Ryan Tubridy with his agent Noel Kelly
Ryan Tubridy with his agent Noel Kelly

Speaking to The Laughs Of Your Life with Doireann Garrihy podcast, Tubridy said offers “started to roll in” across the UK and Ireland after his RTE employment ended.

However, he said he found it hard to go anywhere else in his home country after presenting the Late Late Show.

He said “there was no bitterness” with anyone he used to work with.

Tubridy also said he was “humbled” at the height of the controversy when he compared his own situation to families affected by the tragic death of Irish teenagers abroad.

Recalling his journey to Leinster House for Oireachtas hearings, he said: “I got a taxi in and we were driving along and we were coming along by Vincent’s Hospital and the next stop on the left – kind of on the ’embassy belt’ – was St Michael’s College and there were bunches of flowers outside because two boys died in Ios in Greece.

Flowers outside St, Michael’s College
Flowers outside St, Michael’s College (Niall Carson/PA)

“And I looked at those – and they were 18-year-old boys – and I thought to myself in the back of that car having kind of spent a few hours feeling sorry for myself.

“And I thought: ‘My life is interrupted – and those families’ lives are destroyed. Now you cop yourself on. You’re going in to the tell the story, you’re going in to tell them everything you know and then you’re going home. Think about that ‘. And that was a good pep talk.”

Tubridy said he did not know the families involved, but found the situation “humbling”.

He added: “I hope they’re doing okay. In the middle of all of this, that really did put manners on me.”

RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst
RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst (Liam McBurney/PA)

Reflecting on the summer of controversy, the radio and television host said: “It is strange rather than hard but you get around it. I don’t often talk an awful lot about this side of things because I’m generally trying to focus on the future.

“You know, the future is so bright now but I couldn’t see that for a little while recently and, gosh, it was difficult.”

Asked by Garrihy, who is also represented by Mr Kelly, how he got through that period, Tubridy said: “Two things: Family and perspective.

“Family. I don’t need to go on about how amazing they were, like, quite knockout.”

However, he said his 82-year-old “Irish mammy” was great during the controversy which saw him called before the parliamentary committees, which he compared to a “toilet”.

He added: “During ‘the thing’, she was great, she was in hospital for a lot of it. That was one of the things I found quite difficult when I was being thrashed by certain quarters and the odd person and I thought: ‘You know, I don’t mind you thrashing me but have you any idea the pain you may be causing the people around me?

“And they don’t really and that’s fine, that’s their job and off they go. But they’re tough ol’ skins around me.”

Referencing the large public attention his Oireachtas committee appearances garnered, he joked: “If I wasn’t me, I’d be kinda going: ‘The poor divil’.”

Tubridy said he starts a daily three-hour show on Virgin Radio from January 2, adding: “That’s before we get into TV work and it has just blown the doors off my career.”