Ryan Tubridy’s RTÉ future in grave doubt as payments scandal leaves star in contract limbo
June 29, 2023
Alarm bells on undeclared cash went off before Late Late exit Patrick Kielty nails down role and now wants his salary public Dee Forbes was asked to resign, as Taoiseach slaps management
In another bruising day for the national broadcaster, it emerged Tubridy is out of contract, talks on a new deal are suspended and it’s not clear if he will return at all.
RTÉ sources indicate he certainly won’t be back on air this side of the summer as an investigation into his payments continues.
Coming under intense scrutiny, the broadcaster disclosed it made a €1.2m settlement with Revenue over bogus self-employment.
Eight things we learned from RTÉ bosses at the Oireachtas Media Committee
RTÉ chiefs will appear before the Dáil Public Accounts committee today to be quizzed on the saga.
At the Oireachtas Media Committee yesterday, Tubridy’s departure from The Late Late Show was described as an “incredible coincidence” as it was announced the day before RTÉ’s board found out about his payments. RTÉ now admits senior executives were told about the payments issue weeks before his shock departure.
But his Late Late Show replacement, Patrick Kielty, is nailing down his role and wants his salary to be made public.
RTÉ’s board and executive are also still under pressure following an unconvincing performance before the Media Committee. In a slapdown of the RTÉ management, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said it was not credible for them to claim former director general Dee Forbes was the only one who knew about the misreported payments to Tubridy. And it was revealed that Ms Forbes was asked to resign two weeks ago, but the Government was never told by the RTÉ chair.
But there is a real shadow over Tubridy’s future now with conflicting accounts of the status of his contract.
RTÉ’s acting director general, Adrian Lynch, refused to be drawn on whether Tubridy will be back on the radio.
“At the moment, obviously, for editorial reasons, it’s impossible for Ryan Tubridy to be back on air,” he said.
“We wouldn’t give our platform or airwaves to someone who is a public figure or who is involved in a controversy,” he added later.
RTÉ board and executives leave after grilling over Tubridy payments
When asked about the Irish Independent reporting that Tubridy disputes RTÉ claims that his contract is finished, Mr Lynch said he is getting paid the “radio portion” now.
“His radio and television contract went until the end of May. Then it was radio only,” he said.
A new contract to take account of him giving up The Late Late Show but continuing with his RTÉ Radio 1 show has yet to be agreed.
The outcome of a second investigation by accountants Grant Thornton into payments to Tubridy will take up to four weeks.
Tubridy’s earnings for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 were understated by €120,000. The presenter was due a “loyalty bonus” of €120,000 at the end of his contract.
But RTÉ chiefs told the committee that the €120,000 wasn’t paid and was “an adjustment made to the figures”, yet the matter is under investigation.
“But for an unexplained reason, that €120,000 was credited against his earnings in between 2017 and 2019. That’s under investigation at the moment by Grant Thornton,” RTÉ chief financial officer Richard Collins said.
Meanwhile, the new Late Late Show presenter Kielty wants to make public his RTÉ pay package, the Irish Independent can reveal.
Kielty walked away in silence on Sunday when asked by the Irish Independent whether he would be willing to disclose his pay. He also replied when asked about the RTÉ payments scandal: “I’ll need a few more beers before I could talk about that.”
RTÉ bosses have confirmed Kielty’s contract to present the show has been signed by both sides. The station’s management also said they would be happy to publish the salary – if Kielty agreed. Kielty has indicated to RTÉ he wants his salary to be known.
RTÉ acting director general Mr Lynch also said Kielty was recently informed of the impending issue around Tubridy’s pay. “As soon as we were aware as an exec board, he was warned it was coming,” Mr Lynch said.
Mr Varadkar told the Fine Gael parliamentary party that the controversy was very damaging for RTÉ. The Fine Gael leader told colleagues the country needs a public service broadcaster and that “change and accountability” from RTÉ are “so important”.
The Government is threatening to bring in an outside expert to run the organisation if the existing management cannot get on top of the crisis.
Yesterday’s committee hearing has done little to quell growing Coalition anger over RTÉ’s handling of the crisis. Last night, a senior coalition source said they now expect a second Grant Thornton report into the pay debacle to be ready “in a few days”.
“RTÉ always made a virtue of holding everyone to account and to a high standard yet won’t apply those standards to themselves. They need to get with the programme,” the source said.
The expedited timeline came after Media Minister Catherine Martin instructed RTÉ to accelerate delivery of the report and criticised the broadcaster which had earlier indicated it would take four weeks.
In a statement Ms Martin said the hearing had not “calmed the considerable disquiet” over a lack of accountability.
A government source said RTÉ executives were “Jesuitical” with some of their answers and described revelations during the committee hearing that RTÉ paid a €1.2m settlement to Revenue for bogus self-employment as “astonishing”.
The chair of RTÉ board Ms Ní Raghallaigh revealed that she asked Ms Forbes for her resignation on June 16. She said one of the recommendations from the Audit and Risk Committee was to ask for Ms Forbes’ resignation. “She still has the option to come before the committee,” she said.
Ms Forbes’ resignation was not “forthcoming”, said Ms Ní Raghallaigh.
“I sought her resignation, it wasn’t forthcoming and then we went into a disciplinary process.
“I was advised we couldn’t say she was suspended because of labour laws.”
She said the board made her suspension public due to the “damage” that it was doing to RTÉ.
Ms Ní Raghallaigh said she did not tell Ms Martin during their meeting on Saturday that she had sought Ms Forbes’ resignation.
Also at the committee, RTÉ bosses said some presenters are ambassadors for cars and “do have cars”, which is done through their agents or themselves.
RTÉ management also clarified executives knew since “early March” of the issues surrounding the €75,000 payments to Tubridy, despite earlier in the committee saying they were only made aware around St Patrick’s Day.
“The issue was flagged whenever it was, early March at that stage. I was spoken to, the director general was spoken to,” Mr Collins said.
Chair of the Media Committee, Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth, also asked for figures for Toy Show The Musical. The musical has now been abandoned.
RTÉ director of strategy Rory Coveney told her this is “commercially sensitive”. This was rejected by the chair and Mr Coveney said: “We’ll consider it and come back to you”.
Additional reporting by Melanie Finn Amy Molloy and Seoirse Mulgrew