RTÉ to brief FG, Labour on Flynn debt deal

 

RTÉ is to brief Fine Gael and Labour next week, following allegations from both that it bowed to pressure from Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to reach a settlement with Independent TD Beverley Flynn over her libel case bills.

Last week, RTÉ accepted €1.3 million from Ms Flynn out of the €2.3 million outstanding, plus €500,000 interest, to settle her High Court and Supreme Court legal action debts.

RTÉ director general Cathal Goan strongly rejected charges that Mr Ahern's intervention had encouraged RTÉ to settle with Ms Flynn, daughter of former EU commissioner Pádraig Flynn.

In the Dáil, the Taoiseach insisted he had "no knowledge of and nor have I been in any way involved in Deputy Beverley Flynn's deal, negotiations or settlement with RTÉ.

"She never raised the issue of RTÉ with me. In fairness to her, she never mentioned it. There was no discussion between me as leader of Fianna Fáil or as Taoiseach with Deputy Flynn regarding her case, or her pending settlement with RTÉ. She did not raise the issue."

He said Ms Flynn had not implied "that she was trying to settle or that she was going to pay" during his discussions with her about her support for a Fianna Fáil-led coalition earlier this month.

Mr Ahern created considerable controversy last Sunday week when he said that Ms Flynn had a "legitimate expectation" to hold junior ministerial office within the lifetime of the current Government.

The former Fianna Fáil TD is a person of "enormous ability", he said, who would have been a "very strong contender" for a promotion were it not for the difficulties she had experienced.

Questioned about RTÉ's decision, Mr Goan said: "There is no question at any level of any interference with me directly, or indirectly in coming to this decision. I certainly wasn't influenced by anyone making contact with me.

"I am obliged to exercise independence in what I do and I exercised that independence. I am not here to curry favour with Bertie Ahern or Beverley Flynn, Enda Kenny or Pat Rabbitte.

"I am here to do a job, which is to express the independence of RTÉ journalism and I believe that I have done that," he said, adding that the Mayo TD had only begun to appreciate that she faced the threat of being declared a bankrupt and losing her Dáil seat when RTÉ began bankruptcy proceedings against her.

RTÉ offered briefings to Fine Gael and Labour within minutes of Dáil criticism of the settlement led by Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny. The meetings are likely to take place next week, Fine Gael said last night.

"It was my belief with the best financial and legal advice available to me that what RTÉ got in a debt collection situation was the best possible deal.

"I consulted with the legal and financial team. I took the decision and I stand over that," he said, though he expressed surprise that details had emerged before the matter was dealt with by the High Court.