RTÉ Payments Scandal: Ryan Tubridy’s Future at RTÉ Uncertain as Invoice from Agent is Received
Ryan Tubridy’s future at RTÉ is uncertain as an invoice from his agent has been received, according to RTÉ’s Director-General, Steve Bakhurst. Bakhurst stated that a decision on Tubridy’s future needs to be made, as he is no longer fulfilling his duties. Tubridy, who appeared before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday, claimed that he is still being paid by RTÉ. However, Bakhurst revealed that the finance department informed him of an invoice from Tubridy’s agent, prompting him to seek advice on whether it should be paid.
During the PAC hearing, Bakhurst also stated that RTÉ has not asked Tubridy to return €150,000 from outstanding Renault appearances. However, he later indicated that he would consider recouping this money if Tubridy agreed to return it, emphasizing that it is taxpayer’s money. Bakhurst clarified that he has not been in contact with Tubridy since the hearing and that he does not want to rush a decision on Tubridy’s return to work at RTÉ. He expressed the need to consider what is best for the organization.
The PAC also raised questions about disciplinary actions for staff who have breached rules surrounding commercial arrangements. Bakhurst acknowledged that there is a process in place to investigate the situation, led by Adrian Lynch. The committee also inquired about reviewing contracts with side letters, to which Bakhurst responded that it is difficult to revisit agreed contracts but most of them are not long-term.
The committee heard conflicting testimonies regarding outstanding events owed by Tubridy. Interim Deputy Director General, Adrian Lynch, stated that Tubridy does not owe six outstanding events to anyone, as Renault never signed up for these additional events. Lynch also mentioned that former Chief Financial Officer, Breda O’Keefe, disputed a certain claim made during the hearing. However, TDs Catherine Murphy and Paul McAuliffe objected to accepting this contribution, as O’Keefe declined an invitation to appear before the committee.
Bakhurst expressed his willingness to return before the TDs and be accompanied by Tubridy to shed more light on the payments scandal. He also mentioned that the future location of the organization is being considered, with a lot hinging on future funding. Bakhurst confirmed that there will be a significant price tag for the ongoing reviews in RTÉ, but the exact amount is still unclear.
TD John Brady highlighted that Tubridy was paid for services that were not provided. Lynch stated that there is little else of substance that can be provided from former Director General Dee Forbes’s email account. Bakhurst assured that the commercial side of RTÉ is business as usual amid the payments scandal. He also mentioned that there is no intention to lobby politicians for a TV licence overhaul at the moment.
The committee discussed Tubridy’s agent, Noel Kelly, and his alleged lack of knowledge about the “scheme to deceive.” Bakhurst stood by his previous comments and accused Independent TD Verona Murphy of misrepresenting his words. Bakhurst confirmed that Renault’s contract to sponsor the next series of The Late Late Show is up for renewal.
Lynch referred to former RTÉ commercial director Geraldine O’Leary’s testimony, which revealed that the six additional Renault events planned did not take place. This raised questions about whether invoices made out to UK-based barter account Actus were paid by RTÉ instead of Renault, as Kelly suggested. However, Lynch was unable to provide proof of this.
Murphy highlighted O’Keefe’s impression that everyone in RTÉ was opposed to underwriting the agreement. She criticized RTÉ for not countering this impression and expressed her lack of confidence in Lynch and Bakhurst. Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon questioned whether anyone else in RTÉ should be paid more than the Director-General. Bakhurst emphasized the need for downward pressure on top presenter pay while attracting the best talent.
The committee also raised concerns about the credibility of the €100 million commercial revenue figure given by Kelly. Lynch stated that he is unsure about the figure’s validity and declined to comment on Kelly’s explanation. The question of whether the fraudulent invoices have been reported to the gardaí was raised, to which RTÉ’s legal director, Paula Mullooly, stated that the legal advice is that they were misleading but not fraudulent. Mullooly clarified that collusion between Kelly and RTÉ does not necessarily constitute a criminal offense.
The RTÉ payments scandal continues to unfold, with further investigations and reviews ongoing. The future of Ryan Tubridy at RTÉ remains uncertain as decisions are being made regarding his return to work. The committee will continue to delve into the details of the scandal and seek answers to the questions raised.