Responsibility for Ryan Tubridy extra payments lay with Dee Forbes, RTÉ says in statement

No other board member had ‘all necessary information’ to understand incorrect published pay figures, deputy DG says with release of Grant Thornton report

Ryan Tubridy and Dee Forbes

Responsibility for agreeing the extra payments for Ryan Tubridy that were not publicly disclosed lay principally with former director general Dee Forbes, who was involved in negotiating the deal with Tubridy’s agent Noel Kelly and authorising payments.

While there was some knowledge of aspects of the agreement on the part of other senior RTÉ staff, the statement published by RTÉ on Tuesday evening said: “No member of the RTÉ executive board, other than the director general, had all the necessary information in order to understand that the publicly declared figures for Ryan Tubridy could have been wrong.”

The statement, in the name of interim deputy director general Adrian Lynch, also says that legal advice given to the station on the basis of the findings of an external review by auditor Grant Thornton has found that “there was no illegality and payments were made pursuant to an agreed contract”.

“The Grant Thornton review makes no finding of wrongdoing on the part of Ryan Tubridy in relation to any payments made by RTÉ,” Mr Lynch’s statement says.


The statement also noted that Dee Forbes had not had an opportunity to respond to the account supplied by RTÉ and “may therefore challenge or disagree with our understanding and position”.

However, the findings lay responsibility for the agreement of the extra payments to Tubridy almost entirely with Ms Forbes – and, also, by implication, the understatement of Tubridy’s earnings from the station to the public, the Oireachtas and the Government.

“The director general,” it says, “was directly involved in aspects of the negotiations, as is clearly captured in the Grant Thornton review.”

RTÉ released the latest statement and the Grant Thornton review into payments made to Tubridy between 2020 and 2022 amid growing public and political anger over the national broadcaster’s failure to disclose €345,000 in payments made to the station’s highest-paid earner since 2017.

The circumstances that led to the understatement of Tubridy’s earnings from 2017 to 2019 - some €120,000 of the €345,000 in hidden payments - are still being reviewed by Grant Thornton.

The first suggestion of the additional payments to Tubridy came in a financial proposal drafted by then RTÉ chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe to his agent, Mr Kelly, in December 2019. It says that this came “following a meeting between the director general and the agent”, though it does not say who first suggested it.

In the months afterwards, the detail of the agreement with The Late Late Show sponsor Renault, and also the guarantee that RTÉ would underwrite, was thrashed out in a series of meetings and communications between RTÉ and Mr Kelly.

There were two agreements reached – one between Tubridy and RTÉ, and another between Tubridy, RTÉ and Renault. RTÉ gave Renault a credit note for the first €75,000, due for 2020, in order to ensure there was no extra cost to the show’s sponsor.

When Renault discontinued the agreement the following year, RTÉ was obliged to pay €75,000 extra per year to its top presenter. These were paid via the RTÉ barter account.

In addition to the undisclosed payments made to Tubridy, RTÉ also revealed that the broadcaster paid the costs of Renault’s commercial sponsorship events in 2022 - where The Late Late Show presenter made appearances - through the UK barter account.

The actual cost of the events was €30,586 but the payments were recorded in the barter account at a value of €47,477, the full cost of these events to RTÉ.

The RTÉ statement says that the agreement to underwrite the agreement between Tubridy and Renault was agreed by Ms Forbes, despite objections from within RTÉ: “The director general verbally agreed (via video meeting) to underwrite the terms of the commercial arrangement. Present at this meeting was the director general, two representatives of the agent and the RTÉ solicitor. This final aspect had been sought by the agent throughout the negotiations and there had been significant pushback by RTÉ.”

Although the RTÉ statement says that no member of the executive board had full knowledge of the agreement with Tubridy, it is clear that some members had at least partial knowledge.

The statement said that - due to his “editorial responsibilities” - the broadcaster’s director of content Jim Jennings was aware of “elements” of the commercial agreement but not RTÉ's underwriting of it and that he received the “tri-partite agreement” between Tubridy, RTÉ and Renault.

According to his own statement, Mr Lynch, in his previous role as director of audiences, channels and marketing, was aware of elements of the commercial agreement but not RTÉ's underwriting of it and that at no stage did he receive the tri-partite agreement, Tubridy’s contract or any side letters.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times