Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly seek to put spotlight back on RTÉ, but questions remain

Presenter admits he could be ‘out of a job by Friday’ as broadcaster’s executives prepare to return to committee

Some of the highlights from Ryan Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly's appearance before the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee. Video: Oireachtas TV

In forthright and sometimes emotional evidence at two Oireachtas committees on Tuesday, Ryan Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly accused RTÉ of giving false and misleading accounts of the star’s remuneration, seeking to place responsibility for the controversy squarely back with the station’s management.

But committee members repeatedly questioned key parts of their evidence about the extent of pay cuts taken in 2020 by Mr Tubridy and expressed scepticism at aspects of their explanations about the payments made to him outside his core contract.

RTÉ executives, including the new director general Kevin Bakhurst, will face fresh questions when they come to the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, after documents given to the committees on Tuesday contradicted aspects of the evidence already given by RTÉ.

At the start of another long day in a drama that has transfixed political life since it broke nearly three weeks ago, Mr Tubridy apologised to the committee, the public and RTÉ staff for what he called “the fog of confusion” over the payments controversy. But both he and Mr Kelly – the latter repeatedly and forcefully – accused RTÉ of misleading the public and the Oireachtas, and of profoundly damaging their reputations.


Showing flashes of anger at times, they insisted that the fault for concealing the payments to Mr Tubridy lay squarely with RTÉ management. “It is an RTÉ issue,” Mr Kelly said.

Asked if he was washing his hands of it, he replied: “Completely.”

But Mr Tubridy frankly admitted that his future at the broadcaster now hangs in the balance. He expressed the wish to return to the airwaves, but admitted: “I could be out of a job by Friday”.

Both he and Mr Kelly repeatedly described the impact of the controversy on them and their families.

“I think my name has been desperately sullied,” Mr Tubridy said. “I think my reputation has been sullied. I am deeply upset. I am hurt.”

“I don’t know if any of you have been cancelled before, but you don’t want to be there,” Mr Tubridy told the PAC. There had been a “humanity bypass” in how the story has unfolded, he said.

He insisted that he had taken a substantial pay cut, though several members of both committees disputed its extent.

Tubridy and Kelly shed light on money trail and disputed €120,000 paymentOpens in new window ]

Throughout the almost seven hours of hearings at the Public Accounts Committee and later at the Media Committee, Mr Kelly and Mr Tubridy insisted that the arrangements with Renault, which were underwritten and ultimately paid by RTÉ, were completely separate to his contract with the broadcaster. But this view was repeatedly rejected by several committee members.

Mr Kelly insisted that he did not know that two €75,000 payments to Mr Tubridy, routed at RTÉ’s request through a London-based agency, were from RTÉ and not from Renault, sponsors of the Late Late Show. He said he invoiced for payments for “consultancy services” at RTÉ’s express request. Mr Tubridy said that he believed the payments were from Renault, but acknowledged he had not done the events. He said that he would do the events in the future, and if he did not, he would pay the money back.

Ryan Tubridy at the Oireachtas: what we learned

Listen | 22:09

The station’s executives last week told the committee that there was strong opposition to underwriting the deal but in an email supplied by Mr Kelly, the former RTÉ chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe promised a side letter to underwrite the fee during contract negotiations. Ms O’Keeffe has now told the PAC she will not be able to attend Thursday’s meeting.

Mr Tubridy denied repeatedly and in strong terms that his decision to leave the Late Late Show was related to the current controversy, and he said that the decision had been made and communicated to people close to him, including Mr Kelly, before the controversy broke.

Ten new things we’ve learned after Tubridy's appearance before OireachtasOpens in new window ]

Political reaction last night was muted. One senior Government source said that Mr Tubridy had done a good job of appealing to the public, but acknowledged there was widespread scepticism at some of the evidence heard today.

Other Ministers said that key issues remain unaddressed – and fear that ultimately, the taxpayer will have to step in to assist RTÉ because of the continuing controversy.

In RTÉ, there were mixed views among staff about whether Mr Tubridy should return to the station. “The jury is still out,” said a senior RTÉ journalist after Mr Tubridy and Mr Kelly had finished their committee appearances on Tuesday.

“We are talking to each other, asking ‘what do you think?’ and we’re really not sure,” the reporter said.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times