Appointment of former head of alcohol body to RTÉ board approved

Nomination of Fionnuala Sheehan drew criticism from several quarters


The Government has resisted pressure from stakeholders in the health sector and approved the appointment of a former chief executive of Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (Meas) to the board of RTÉ.

In October, Fionnuala Sheehan was one of four people nominated by the Oireachtas committee on transport and communications to join the national broadcaster’s board. Minister for Communications Alex White has obtained approval from Cabinet for their appointments.

The nomination of the head of the alcohol industry-funded body for the position drew criticism from several quarters. Royal College of Physicians of Ireland president Prof Frank Murray said the move “places somebody who has been a public advocate for the alcohol industry in a position of influence within the State broadcaster”.

Independent TD Róisín Shortall said it was “wholly inappropriate that a representative of the alcohol industry should sit on the board of the national broadcaster when the industry has such an interest in future broadcasting policies and practices”. The Dublin North-West TD pointed out that Meas regularly purchases advertising from RTÉ.

Ms Sheehan said that, whatever about any perception of conflict of interest, she was finishing with Meas in November and her membership of the board of RTÉ did not arise on that basis. She said she had formal training in company directorship and was very aware of the importance of independence on a board.

She added that she had very broad experience in the civil and public sector, the commercial and private sector and in higher education as well as her role with Meas, and that she would have no further connection with the alcohol industry once she stepped down from the organisation, which also runs the website.

Other appointments to the board of RTÉ were founder of Aer Arann and Aer Lingus Regional Padraig O’Ceidigh, global chief financial officer of the Economist Group Shane Naughton, and founder and chief executive of brand communications agency Clear Ink Margaret Ward.

The Cabinet also approved the appointment of three people to the board of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with a fourth individual to be appointed in due course.

Academic lawyer Prof Maeve McDonagh, head of the department of media and communications studies in Mary Immaculate College at University of Limerick Dr Rosemary Day, and former director of Ofcom Northern Ireland Denis Wolinski will take up their positions on February 17th.