Ryan Tubridy ‘shocked and disappointed’ as RTÉ ends talks on his return

‘The door is not shut forever,’ says RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst after ending negotiations with Tubridy

Ryan Tubridy had made clear that he wanted to return to the airwaves. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

RTÉ says it has “no plans” for Ryan Tubridy to return to the broadcaster.

In a statement on Thursday evening, director general Kevin Bakhurst said negotiations with Tubridy had concluded without success.

Elaborating further on RTÉ's Nine O’Clock news, Mr Bakhurst said he had spoken to the broadcaster on Thursday evening and Tubridy was “shocked and disappointed” by the director general’s decision to end talks.

Mr Bakhurst said “the door is not shut forever” but there were no plans currently for Tubridy’s return to RTÉ.


Later on Prime Time, Mr Bakhurst said the plan was originally to have Tubridy return on September 4th, on a salary of €170,000, and talks were advanced but fell apart this week.

The Irish Times reported on Wednesday evening that RTÉ had sought clarity from Tubridy on part of a statement issued by the presenter about the manner in which his earnings were reported.

The statement is understood to have caused deep annoyance within RTÉ, and appeared fundamental to an eleventh-hour breakdown in negotiations.

Mr Bakhurst said the issue did not come down to the statement alone but that there was a need to take responsibility on both sides.

“I don’t actually feel that Ryan was best served by the people around him who advised him on making that statement,” Mr Bakhurst said.

“To get a statement thrown in at a late stage like that which questions a central part of the recovery of trust is not really helpful.”

Mr Bakhurst added: “RTÉ has taken responsibility, has borne the vast majority of responsibility for what went wrong here. But I also [thought] it was important that Ryan himself owned a certain amount of responsibility for this and we had discussions about that.”

He said the statement issued by Tubridy “muddied the waters somewhat” and it had been important for Grant Thornton and the RTÉ board to restate his earnings correctly.

Mr Bakhurst denied the move was petty, saying he had spent a great deal of time in recent weeks in negotiations.

“I try to be a very fair person. I feel a lot of mistakes have been made and [there have] been some particularly big mistakes by RTÉ but also by Ryan and his advisers.

“I think now is not the right time for Ryan to come back. We need to focus on rebuilding trust with the audience but the door is not shut forever,” Mr Bakhurst added.

There was no immediate comment from Tubridy on Thursday night.

Two sources with knowledge of the situation said that Tubridy stood by the contentious line in the statement when RTÉ sought clarity on it on Wednesday evening. Tubridy’s representatives did not respond immediately to a request for comment on this aspect.

A source close to RTÉ said the deal collapsed at a late hour, saying his insistence on sticking by the line had soured relations beyond repair: “RTÉ wanted him back on the air. All he had to do was show contrition and accept the Grant Thornton reports.”

Tubridy had released the short statement on Wednesday afternoon following the publication of a report by Grant Thornton into public statements by RTÉ that under-declared his income by €120,000.

In his statement, Tubridy said that “It is also clear that my actual income from RTÉ in 2020 and 2021 matches what was originally published as my earnings for those years and RTÉ has not yet published its top 10 earner details for 2022.”

On Wednesday evening, the broadcaster told The Irish Times that it was seeking further clarification from Tubridy regarding this line in his statement.

It is understood that Tubridy’s camp believe a table in a Grant Thornton report published on Wednesday supported their contention.

In his statement following the report’s publication, Tubridy thanked members of the public for their “huge support”, adding: “I am committed to re-establishing the confidence and trust of my colleagues and listeners, and I hope that any fair assessment of the findings of today’s report will help in this regard.”

In his statement on Thursday evening, Mr Bakhurst said: “We went into negotiations with Ryan in good faith and in the hopes of reaching an agreement that would see Ryan return to his RTÉ Radio 1 show.

“I have decided not to continue with negotiations and, as such, there are no plans for Ryan to return to his presenting role with RTÉ at this time.

“Despite having agreed some of the fundamentals, including fee, duration and hours, regretfully, it is my view that trust between the parties has broken down. Public statements made without consultation appear to question the basis for the necessary restatement of fees paid for services for 2020 and 2021.

“As I set about a programme of recovery from this crisis, it is imperative that all parties are aligned in one key respect: the misstatement of fees should never have happened; and the correct restatement of those fees is accepted by all.

“I have been clear since I took up the role of director general of RTÉ that I am absolutely committed to restoring trust in this organisation following a shameful period in our history. To achieve this, and fully draw a line between our recent past and present, we must acknowledge and accept the issues that have arisen.

“Who knows what the future holds, but for now I am concluding the negotiation with Ryan, and focusing on delivering a range of important changes to the operation and culture of this organisation as part of the essential work to restore trust in RTÉ.”

The RTÉ board issued a statement following the breakdown of talks on Thursday evening, saying: “The board notes the decision of the director general, Kevin Bakhurst, in relation to Ryan Tubridy.

“The board supports the ongoing work of the director general and his interim leadership team. The board fully accepts the findings of both Grant Thornton reports.”

Tubridy has not hosted his morning radio show on RTÉ since it emerged in June that he was paid €225,000 more than the broadcaster had disclosed in public statements on the pay of top earners.

This was undertaken by a complex scheme in turn underpinned by a “tripartite agreement” with Renault, then the Late Late Show sponsor, which ultimately saw RTÉ pay three separate instalments of €75,000 to the presenter – who has said he did not know the broadcaster was footing the bill.

During lengthy Oireachtas committee hearings in July, Mr Tubridy made clear that he wanted to return to the airwaves. However, the revelations over his pay led to wider unrest at RTÉ, with many staff at the organisation criticising the conditions they worked under, as well as the wider backdrop of cuts at the broadcaster in recent years.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times