‘Catherine Martin should step down’: Labour renews call for Minister’s resignation ahead of committee appearance

Ivana Bacik says there is an ‘existential crisis’ after Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s departure from RTÉ board

There has been a renewed call for Minister for Media Catherine Martin to step down over the circumstances surrounding the resignation of RTÉ's chairwoman as Opposition parties piled on pressure in advance of the Minister for Media’s appearance before an Oireachtas committee this evening.

Siún Ní Raghallaigh resigned as RTÉ chairwoman after Ms Martin refused to express confidence in her during an interview on Prime Time and expressed her disappointment that she had been misinformed about exit packages for RTÉ executives.

The media committee is set explore the extent of the knowledge of a change of policy at the broadcaster, which saw the remuneration committee of the main board assume responsibility for signing off on severance packages.

There have been divergences in the accounts of who knew about the changes between RTÉ and Ms Ní Raghallaigh on the one hand, and the department on the other.


Speaking outside Leinster House on Tuesday, Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said there is an “existential crisis” after Ms Ní Raghallaigh’s departure and Ms Martin “has to answer the question as to why she went on Prime Time last Thursday night and effectively carried out summary dismissal of the chairperson of a state board”.

She said there should be questions and answers with Ms Martin in the Dáil as opposed to the statements that are currently scheduled.

Ms Bacik said of Labour’s position: “We’ve made clear our view which is that Catherine Martin should step down.

“We don’t believe that her actions on Thursday night demonstrated a capacity to show the steady leadership, the calm leadership that is now needed to bring RTÉ through this crisis.”

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall did not go so far, saying: “We’re not in the business of calling for heads.”

However, she did say: “It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Minister Martin made a serious blunder last Thursday in going on the Prime Time programme.

“That was very ill-judged in our view, and clearly she was seriously ill-informed about the background to the issue of the exit packages.”

She outlined a series of questions she would like to see addressed at this evening’s committee meeting relating to the knowledge within the Department of Media of how exit packages were being dealt with.

Richard Boyd Barrett said there is an “absolutely unbelievable debacle” going on, adding: “this has been rolling on for months and months now and it shows a completely shambolic dysfunctional relationship between the Minister and RTÉ”.

He also called for a questions and answers session with Ms Martin in the Dáil, saying: “We want a direct interaction with the Minister to ask questions and to get to the bottom of this situation.”

Meanwhile, the Government has said the “appropriate place” for the Minister for Media Catherine Martin to answer questions is in front of the Oireachtas Media Committee.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said Ms Martin would be in front of the committee “for many hours” this evening and would give statements to the Dáil on Wednesday.

He said the minister would respond to deputies’ queries at the end of the statements session in the Dáil.

“The appropriate place in which this matter should be dealt with is in the Oireachtas Committee that’s responsible for the media,” Mr Donohoe said on Tuesday.

He said all parties would have representatives on the committee who could put forward questions to Ms Martin.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said Ms Martin was “refusing to answer questions” before the Dáil.

“The same minister was quite prepared to go on live television and without any prior notice sack Siún Ní Raghallaigh, but she’s not prepared to come before the chamber and answer questions,” she said.

Ms McDonald said the minister had “badly mishandled the RTÉ debacle” and had now “added to the chaos”.

“A lack of transparency and accountability has broken public trust in RTÉ and it now seems the minister is not prepared to be fully transparent and accountable,” she added. “That is not an acceptable situation.”

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times