RTÉ presenters apologise after social distancing breaches

Miriam O’Callaghan, David McCullagh and Bryan Dobson were photographed breaching public health guidelines

RTE news journalists David McCullagh and Eileen Dunne apologised live on air from the 6 and 9pm new bulletins on the channel for breaching public health guidelines at a recent gathering on the RTE campus in Donnybrook. Video: RTE News

 

RTÉ has apologised after several high-profile news presenters were photographed at a gathering where social distancing was not fully observed.

Photographs have surfaced of RTÉ personnel posing with a “long-serving” colleague on her last day at work. In the images, social distancing is not observed and the individuals are not wearing masks.

Miriam O’Callaghan, David McCullagh and Bryan Dobson are among the presenters who were photographed, all of whom have described it as an error of judgement.

In a statement, the broadcaster said it takes public health advice “with the utmost seriousness” and has implemented “detailed workplace protocols” since the beginning of the pandemic.

“ These have been essential in keeping staff and visitors /programme guests safe whilst on site. Because of the measures taken by RTÉ, no cases of Covid-19 have so far been transmitted on campus,” the statement said.

“A small number of RTÉ personnel working on site recently attended a short impromptu gathering in a public area and in the place of work of a long-serving colleague to say farewell on her last day.”

The statement said while social distancing was observed “overall”, a number of the people “briefly posed for a photo with their departing colleague, before returning to work”.

“These contacts were not close contacts as defined by HSPC guidelines. They were brief casual contacts which, while well intentioned, were unnecessarily risky and should not have happened,” it added.

“RTÉ and those involved regret this occurred. Over the last few days we have reminded all staff of their obligations to keep both themselves and the site safe, particularly over the very busy few weeks we are heading into.”

Jon Williams, managing director news and current affairs, who was also photographed, said: “I deeply regret not thinking through the consequences of a momentary lapse of judgement. It was wrong and I’m very sorry.

Bryan Dobson described the incident as a “ momentary but nonetheless serious lapse of judgement”, while David McCullagh said he “deeply regret[S]” the error of judgement.

Bryan Dobson with his colleague at the gathering.
Bryan Dobson with his colleague at the gathering.

Miriam O’Callaghan said she is “so sorry” and apologises “for an error of judgement on my part”.

Dobson also addressed the issue at the start of the News at One on RTÉ Radio One on Friday.

“Before we go any further I’d like to take a moment to comment on that report in today’s Sun newspaper about a gathering here in RTÉ last week at which I was photographed beside a colleague who was retiring,” the broadcaster told listeners.

“We are advised strongly under Covid-19 guidelines not to be in such close proximity to another person outside our immediate family bubble and I want once again to unreservedly apologise for my lapse in judgement in posing for the photograph, the responsibility is mine alone.

“I’m sorry to everyone who has sacrificed so much in recent months to those who have lost loved ones who are living with the after effects of the infection to those who have lost their jobs, livelihoods, their businesses, those who have been isolated from family and friends.

“On this programme we’ve vigorously debated Covid measures, but what is not disputed is that each of us should make every effort to observe the restrictions in place at any given time. I’d be very concerned if any action of min undermined that vital life saving public health advice.”

David McCullagh also apologised on the Six One News on Friday evening. “I am unfortunately one of the people who failed to properly observe social distancing here in RTÉ last week. It was an error of judgement which I deeply regret, for which I take full responsibility, and for which I unreservedly apologise to you, our audience,” he said.

“None of us can afford to let down our guard, even for a moment, and I am very, very sorry that I failed to do the right thing on this occasion.”

TV News anchor Eileen Dunne also apologised on Friday night as she read the Nine O’Clock news .“So hands up, as you’ve seen I too was photographed at the farewell for Phil and I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my lack of judgment,” she said.

“Particularly to RTÉ colleagues who have worked so hard to keep this campus Covid free over the past eight months. I have let you all down and I’m sorry.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said earlier it was “disappointing” and “not helpful” that a number of prominent RTÉ presenters did not observe social distancing guidelines during a retirement event at its studios.

“It is disappointing and a reminder to people generally to avoid that kind of behaviour as it can create an atmosphere that (others) can emulate,” he said in an interview with Virgin Media News.

“People in public life need to be leading by example,” said Mr Martin.