Denis O’Brien’s attendance at Tommie Gorman’s retirement event ‘inappropriate’

RTÉ staff tell management they are ‘at a loss to understand’ businessman’s role at event

Businessman Denis O Brien spoke at a virtual retirement event for Tommie Gorman. Photograph: Collins Courts

Businessman Denis O Brien spoke at a virtual retirement event for Tommie Gorman. Photograph: Collins Courts

 

RTÉ staff have said they are “at a loss to understand” why businessman Denis O’Brien attended and spoke at a virtual retirement event for Tommie Gorman, RTÉ’s former northern correspondent.

In a letter sent on Thursday to Jon Williams, RTÉ’s managing director of news, RTÉ staff expressed their concern and said Mr O’Brien’s attendance at the event was “highly inappropriate”.

The letter was sent by Emma O’Kelly, chair of the National Union of Journalists’ Dublin broadcasting branch, on behalf of the entire branch after they met on Thursday.

“Mr O’Brien’s actions over many years have been inimical to the interests of public service journalism,” the letter said.

“His attendance has attracted public comment and has been perceived as granting him a special standing in line with distinguished guests who were present at the function.

“It is not necessary to remind you of Mr O’Brien’s hostile attitude towards the work of RTÉ journalists, his track record in relation to trade union recognition, and his record while prominent media owner in Ireland.”

The letter stated that had staff known the businessman would be speaking at the event, they would not have attended.

The letter also added that staff who did not join the event were “perplexed and angry” once they found out Mr O’Brien attended.

“As a public service broadcaster RTÉ is rightly cautious about the reputational implications of events attended by its staff, who are always mindful of their role as RTÉ employees.

“We regret that RTÉ does not in this instance appear to have applied the same standards to itself.

“It is deeply regrettable that Mr O’Brien’s attendance should have undermined the reputation of RTE and suggested an association where none exists,” the letter concluded.