O’Callaghan says she is ‘deeply sorry’ for flouting Covid rules

Broadcaster makes on-air apology on Sunday radio show over RTÉ retirement gathering

David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan with their colleague (centre) at a gathering.

David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan with their colleague (centre) at a gathering.

 

RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan made an on-air apology on Sunday for failing to observe Covid-19 social distancing guidelines at a recent gathering to mark the retirement of a colleague.

Photographs were published on Friday showing Ms O’Callaghan with her arm around a long-serving colleague on the woman’s last day at work.

Other high-profile RTÉ figures photographed standing close together at the informal event were Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh and Eileen Dunne, all of whom have apologised.

Speaking on her Sunday with Miriam radio programme, Ms O’Callaghan followed up on her apology issued by RTÉ in a statement last week, telling her listeners directly that no one else was to blame for her lapse in social distancing and that she was “deeply sorry”.

‘Lead by example’

In remarks at the start of her programme, the Prime Time presenter said she was acutely aware that it was important for people in the public eye “to lead by example”.

“By appearing in this photograph in the way I did, I seriously failed to do that and in that moment I know I let everyone down and for that I will be forever sorry,” she said.

Gardaí are examining how the event for Phil Collins, a reception supervisor who worked at RTÉ for 40 years, was organised at the broadcaster’s Donnybrook campus in Dublin 4.

Investigators are trying to determine if the gathering met the criteria of being “an event” under the Covid-19 regulations and that if it was, a criminal investigation into those who organised it could begin.

Fines

Attendance at an event that breaches social distancing guidelines is not an offence but organisers can face fines of up to €1,000 or imprisonment for one month. The event was not an official RTÉ function but informally arranged for Ms Collins.

Mr Dobson, Mr McCullagh and Ms Dunne all apologised directly to listeners and viewers on programmes that they present.

RTÉ’s managing director of news and current affairs, Jon Williams, was also photographed at the event in images that first appeared in the Irish Sun last Friday. He said he was “very sorry” for what he described as a “momentary lapse of judgment” when photographs were taken.

Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth, chair of the Oireachtas media and culture committee, has said that she plans to discuss the incident with colleagues on Wednesday.