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RTÉ gets a €10m Christmas present from Government

Inside Politics: A commission on the future of public service broadcasting is also set to be established

Good morning.

Around this time of year, just before the Dáil rises for its Christmas recess, cabinet agendas are thicker, and the proceedings of ministers at their weekly meetings zippier as governments attempt to discharge as much business as possible before the year’s end.

Today’s meeting follows the well-established pattern, but it is understood one of the more interesting issues before Ministers today has not been circulated in advance with the rest of the weekly Cabinet agenda.

Something of a public debate on the future of public service broadcasting followed last month’s announcement by RTÉ of a cost-cutting plan that would see it reduce spending by €55 million and shed 200 jobs.


RTÉ has argued, as it has done for years, that the licence fee is antiquated and must be reformed for an era of increasing consumption of programming on electronic devices instead of television sets.

Dee Forbes, the director general of RTÉ, will repeat the point when she speaks to the Oireachtas Communications Committee today. In her opening statement, Forbes says a seven-year wait for the introduction of a new broadcasting charge is "untenable".

Yet, as we report this morning, RTÉ's attention is likely to be drawn elsewhere. In the middle of the busy pre-Christmas Cabinet agenda, Ministers are expected to give the cash-strapped broadcaster another €10 million.

Senior RTÉ executives were anticipating the €10 million to be allocated to the organisation in the October budget but were surprised when Paschal Donohoe did not meet their expectations. It is understood a commission on the future of public service broadcasting is also to be established.

Other items on the Cabinet agenda from Minister for Communications Richard Bruton include a new cyber-security strategy.

Perhaps the more business Ministers attend to over the next week and a half, the better. Speculation the Dáil may not return in January, and that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar may choose to call an election instead of waiting for a motion of no confidence to bring his Government down, continues in certain quarters of Fine Gael.

Denis Staunton’s UK election diary

Boris Johnson will be campaigning in Staffordshire today, warning of gridlock at Westminster if there is another hung parliament ("it's time to send in the bulldozers") and trying to move the story on from his disastrous day yesterday. Read more here.

UK general election enters the final straight

As always, the timing of an election here is tangled up in Brexit. Many of those arguing for Varadkar to call an election without bringing the Dáil back after Christmas acknowledge such a scenario is dependent on Boris Johnson winning a comfortable majority this Thursday.

Campaigning in the UK is entering its final straight, and Johnson suffered one of his more difficult days yesterday. The UK prime minister, as Denis Staunton reports, was heavily criticised for his reaction when a reporter attempted to show him a picture of a four-year-old boy lying on coats on the floor of a Leeds hospital. Johnson initially took and pocketed the phone the reporter was using to show him the picture before handing it back.

Denis has previously drawn comparisons between Johnson now and the Roy Jenkins description of Tony Blair as he sought victory in 1997: a man carrying a Ming vase across a floor. In an analysis piece on what he describes as Johnson's worst misstep, Denis says another similar stumble could be fatal, "leaving the prime minister's dream of glory shattered in a thousand pieces of vanity, mendacity and callousness".

Analysts have said there is a much higher number of undecided voters at this point in an election cycle than before, and an uncaring Johnson on display as many make up their minds ahead of polling day on Thursday will not help the Conservative cause.

Johnson had previously claimed, under his Brexit deal, checks would not be needed on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Britain. This has been rejected by Simon Coveney.

The odds still are that Johnson will win a majority and, on the op-ed pages, Fintan O'Toole says Johnson the loveable buffoon has beaten Johnson the charlatan in the eyes of the British public.

Best Reads

An EPA report that finds just 20 Irish rivers are "pristine" makes our lead story today.

Laura Slattery says the UK general election is all whoppers and codswallop.

An Irish Times editorial says the State must not back down after "threats of litigation by coal producers over a proposed nationwide ban on smoky coal have caused the Government to hesitate on established policy".


The Cabinet meets this morning.


Leaders’ Questions is at 2pm, followed by the Order of Business.

There are a number of motions to be taken without debate: on the Universities Act 1997, on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2019 and a motion on an appointment to the Policing Authority.

Taoiseach’s questions is at 3pm.

The Credit Union Restructuring Board (Dissolution) Bill 2019 is at report and final stages, as is the Health Insurance (Amendment) Bill 2019.

There will be statements on the OECD report on SME and Entrepreneurship Policy in Ireland.

Sinn Féin’s PMB, the Rent Freeze (Fair Rent) Bill 2019, is the final piece of business of the day.


The Upper House will also take the following motions without debate: on the Universities Act 1997, on the Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2019 and a motion on an appointment to the Policing Authority.

The Housing (Regulation of Approved Housing Bodies) Bill 2019 is at second stage.

The Finance Bill 2019 is at report and final stages.

The Judicial Appointments Commission Bill is at report and final stages.


The Joint Committee on issues affecting the Traveller community resumes its session with representatives from Pavee Point, Minceir Whiden, St Stephen’s Green Trust, Involve and Shuttle Knit.

Finance, PER and Taoiseach’s has Sean Kyne, the Government chief whip, and Patrick O’Donovan, the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure, before it to discuss supplementary estimates.

RTÉ is before Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Michael Creed discusses supplementary estimates with the Agriculture Committee.

Agriculture also scrutinises a number of EU legislative proposals.