Dear God, will the RTÉ saga never end?

Your essential end-of-week politics catch up

Story of the Week

It just won’t go away, will it? The never-ending crisis at RTÉ dominated headlines again this week. It began last weekend with the news that senior RTÉ execs had received handsome payouts when they exited the station last year – leading to the obvious question of well, who else got what? RTÉ wasn’t saying, citing confidentiality agreements. Legal advice was clear, director general Kevin Bakhurst said, that the agreements must remain confidential – though it was Bakhurst himself who said that the cost of paying one of the departing Rory Coveney would be recouped within a year, enabling people to work out that his package must have been a year’s salary, or some €200,000. Oops.

Bakhurst said he would get “updated” legal advice but nobody was amazed when that turned out to be the same as the previous unupdated legal advice – you can’t unilaterally set aside the confidentiality clause. Bakhurst said he would seek the permission of the people concerned to splash their pay-offs all over, er, to reveal the detail of the settlements in the interests of transparency. Good luck with that. A more readily answerable question might be why on Earth Bakhurst agreed to the confidentiality clauses in the first place?

The whole episode has dented government confidence in Bakhurst. But nobody is under any illusion that he remains indispensable – if he left, Government figures wonder, who on earth would we get to run the national broadcaster?

That question became even more acute with the resignation in the early hours of this morning of the chair of the RTÉ board Siún Ní Raghallaigh after a Prime Time interview by the Minister for Media Catherine Martin in which she pointedly criticised Ní Raghallaigh and declined to express confidence in her. Martin now finds herself in the unblinking spotlight, as the story becomes about who-knew-what-when. Here’s our live story. Dear God, will it never end?



Bust-ups between firebrand socialist Richard Boyd-Barrett and Government politicians on the floor of the Dáil are not exactly unusual. But there was an extra pungency to this week’s episode between Boyd-Barrett and Leo Varadkar, as the Taoiseach sought to defend junior minister Jennifer Carroll MacNeill from – as he saw it – RBB’s condescending dismissals. “I wasn’t talking to you!” he rasped at her. Varadkar took Umbridge on her behalf. “The way you talked to Deputy Carroll MacNeill just now . . .” tut-tutted the Taoiseach. Boyd-Barrett wasn’t having it. Carroll MacNeill looked on, well able take care of herself, you’d think.

Miriam Lord was there, and was unimpressed with any of it.

Jobs news

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that she would seek another term in the EU’s top job. Senior Government figures said that Dublin would back her for the post, depending on the results of the European Parliament elections in June. Sinn Féin said: no way. Asked if a Sinn Féin Government would veto von der Leyen’s appointment, the party gave a straight answer: “Yes.” It would be a ballsy move at Mary Lou’s first Euro summit, if it came to that.

Winners and Losers

Losers first: the children awaiting spinal surgery for scoliosis and other complaints. After high profile campaigns, the Government allocated money to solve the problem last year. But the operations are still not being done. Now an audit is under way to establish why. It illustrates a recurrent theme of this Government – the failure to understand that just throwing money at a problem does not equate to solving it. See also: housing, waiting lists, etc, etc.

Winners were the people of Northern Ireland, who will benefit from up to €800 million of investment from Dublin in a series of cross-Border infrastructure projects, including the A5 road between Derry and Aughnacloy, the Dublin-Belfast rail service and, er, Casement Park in Belfast, which is cross-Border in the sense that some southern teams might play there. Anyway. The bonanza was announced this week as part of Micheál Martin’s Shared Island initiative – which is becoming an important North-South dynamic, despite everything.

How to say thank you

Jeffrey Donaldson was a little sniffy about it. OK, he would take the money, he said. But really, this was the British government’s job.

“Whilst we welcome support from the Irish Government for genuine cross-Border projects that demonstrate mutual benefit to both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, it is not the job or the responsibility of the Republic’s Government to provide financial support for the provision of public services and general Northern Ireland infrastructure,” he said. “That is a matter for the UK government and must be done so in accordance with our needs base as set out in evidence provided to the UK government.”

Eh, you’re welcome.


It was a sad week at The Irish Times and in Leinster House following the news of the sudden death of Michael O’Regan, Kerryman extraordinaire and the former parliamentary correspondent of this newspaper. Michael was much liked and widely respected, and he will be sorely missed. Paying tribute in the Dáil, Danny Healy-Rae said he was “one of the best Kerrymen that ever came out of Kerry” – which is some compliment, in fairness.

The Big Read

Ronan McGreevy interviewed the leader of Welsh pro-independence party Plaid Cymru as part of our new Common Ground series. Rhun ap Iorwerth, who this week made his first visit to Ireland as party leader, said: “It has been exhilarating in recent years to see us going from single figures to get to a point where it is over 25 per cent in every poll and regularly over 30 per cent.” He sees Ireland as a bit of a template as a nation that has been able “to map out its own destiny”.

Hear here

Hugh Linehan spoke to Daniel McLaughlin reporting from Kyiv for Wednesday’s Inside Politics podcast, and couldn’t resist referring to Tucker Carlson’s ‘softball’ interview with Vladimir Putin during which the Russian leader gave him a history lecture.

We could go back like Tucker Carlson and Vladimir Putin. We could go back 500 years for a history lesson.

—  Hugh Linehan