RTÉ pay controversy: PAC to request former director general Dee Forbes attend final hearings

Committee chair says two latest reports into broadcaster’s voluntary exit programmes highlighted ‘urgency of Ms Forbes attending’

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) will renew its request to former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes to attend a meeting of the committee in February to discuss the controversies over Ryan Tubridy’s pay deal, severance packages, and the losses incurred by Toy Show the Musical.

The chair of the committee, Brian Stanley, said on Thursday that in the wake of the McCann-FitzGerald report this week on two RTÉ voluntary exit programmes, it was important that all the figures who were in senior positions at the broadcaster at the time be called in to the committee.

“We should have RTÉ back in to discuss the [exit programme and Toy Show the Musical], in light of very serious matters [that suggested] serious irregularities in terms of how business was done. I would like to bring them back quickly.”

Mr Stanley, Sinn Féin, said in addition to the current Director General Kevin Bakhurst and chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh, the Committee should also write to RTÉ executives Eimear Cusack (head of public affairs), Jim Jennings (head of content), to members of the board, and the former chief financial officer, Breda O’Keeffe.


Ms Forbes has, on medical advice, not accepted invitations from the committee to attend meetings until now.

Mr Stanley said: “Hopefully she is medically fit. The latest [McCann-FitzGerald] report said she does play a role in it and [her name] comes up a number of times.”

He said the two reports highlighted “the urgency of Dee Forbes coming into this committee”. The Committee had to be flexible in the way it approached the matter, he said.

The Committee hopes to end its hearings into the various RTÉ controversies in February and publish its final report shortly afterwards.

The McCann-FitzGerald report found that Ms O’Keeffe’s application for the voluntary exit scheme was the only one not considered and approved by RTE’s Executive Board as was required under the rules of the programme. In another 10 cases, the report found that the Revenue Commissioners could take the view that RTÉ should not have applied a tax exemption in some cases.

Committee member Catherine Murphy said in relation to its further examination of Toy Show The Musical, former RTÉ executive Rory Coveney should also be invited to attend, as should former RTÉ chair Moya Doherty.

Social Democrats TD Ms Murphy said she asked RTÉ to share a business case with the committee when the show was under way but it was not provided. Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon said the committee should ask for an unredacted copy of the Grant Thornton report on the show, which lost an estimated €2 million. Verona Murphy (Independent) echoed that request.

Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said that the report on RTE’s voluntary exit scheme exposed an “egregious breach of trust” between the broadcaster and the public, and also between it and its own staff.

“I think some of the people most disgusted or indeed sickened are the staff themselves, many of whom sought to avail of various redundancy schemes over the years only to be told that they couldn’t,” he said.

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Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times