First RTÉ, now HSE: Executive exit packages under fresh scrutiny

Voters register as cost of referendums confirmed by Government; European Elections set to be battle between ‘heavy-hitters’

The rolling controversies at RTÉ have been the focus of a massive amount of renewed political and media attention over the last few weeks.

Exit packages for former executives are at the centre of the current intense scrutiny of the national broadcaster.

What has been learned about the practice of making such payments at RTÉ naturally prompts the question of what has been happening in other taxpayer funded organisations.

In our lead story today Martin Wall outlines how one of the most senior executives in the HSE is to receive a redundancy package of nearly €400,000 under a deal approved by Government departments and finalised in recent days.


The HSE said on Wednesday that Dean Sullivan, who was appointed six years ago as deputy director general, had left its employment “by agreement and redundancy”.

HSE chief executive Bernard Gloster said the redundancy agreement involving Mr Sullivan had been reached following “a lawful mediation process” which provided for confidentiality.

He said Mr Sullivan had agreed to the release of the amount involved in the agreement but not to any other aspect of the content.

Details of the agreement with Mr Sullivan are likely to generate further controversy over redundancy payments in the public sector, coming in the wake of revelations of payments made to senior executives in RTÉ.

Issues relating the national broadcaster continue to make the news.

Jack Horgan-Jones and Arthur Beesley report that former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes is set to be given a chance by an Oireachtas committee to submit a written account of her role in the payments scandal that has enveloped the broadcaster.

Ms Forbes, who was one of the first executives to depart the station last summer as news of undisclosed payments to star broadcaster Ryan Tubridy approved by her rocked RTÉ, has been unable to attend any committee hearings due to ill health.

But now the Oireachtas media committee is set to make another attempt to elicit Ms Forbes’ side of the story, which would break the silence from one of the central figures in the RTÉ saga.

Elsewhere, Sarah Burns reports on the Dáil statements on RTÉ. Minister for Media Catherine Martin said public trust in RTÉ needs to be restored before a new funding model for public service broadcasting can be considered by the Government.

Miriam Lord was also watching proceedings and contrasts the somewhat sparse attendance to the Minister’s appearance at the committee on media earlier in the week.

“Grill them and they will come. Read out statements and they will find other things to do,” she writes.

Five non-RTÉ things happening in the world of politics

The RTÉ saga is an important story and also one where coverage is very much both in the public interest and of interest to the public. But for anyone with RTÉ fatigue, here are five other things happening in the world of politics.

There are referendums on

Yes they have been low key but we are just over a week away from the referendums on family and care. Jennifer Bray reports the referendums on Friday March 8th are set to cost as much as €17 million, and also that nearly 110,000 people have applied to the electoral register since the date was announced last December. Meanwhile, Harry McGee reports that the fringe, right-wing National Party has failed in a bid to be recognised as an ‘approved body’ in the referendums. Approved bodies can appoint agents to be present at the issuing of ballot papers to postal voters, the opening of postal voters’ ballot papers and at the counting of votes.

European elections will be a ‘battle between the heavy hitters’

The people will go to the polls again in June to elect Ireland’s MEPs. On Wednesday’s Inside Politics podcast political scientist Theresa Reidy and Political Correspondent Harry McGee joined Hugh Linehan to look ahead to the European elections. The panel pick over the candidates, constituencies, EU political dynamics, and more. Our Europe Correspondent Naomi O’Leary separately looks at how Fine Gael are in an awkward position as European politics shifts right.

Diplomatic efforts to help Irish citizen detained in Iraq

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin is involved in efforts to help Irish citizen Yasser Eljuboori (37) who is in jail after being detained by Iraqi police at Baghdad airport in the early hours of Monday. Mr Eljuboori had been getting a flight back to Ireland after visiting his mother, who is sick. Mr Eljuboori, who has almost 75,000 followers on X, has been a persistent critic of corruption within the Iraqi government. Ronan McGreevy has interviewed Mr Eljuboori’s wife Laura Wickham.

Former assistant to be sentenced for ‘impulsive joke’ tweet that caused Irish MEP three years of ‘torture’

Jack Power reports on how a former parliamentary assistant to MEP Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan has told a Brussels court a post he sent from the politician’s Twitter account about former Green Party election candidate Saoirse McHugh skinny-dipping was an “impulsive joke”.

The criminal case centred around a post that the former assistant Diarmuid Hayes published on Mr Flanagan’s Twitter, now X, account, to which he still had access through a third party app, in the early hours of September 28th, 2020. Mr Hayes apologised in court on Wednesday and there will be a sentence issued in the case next month.

Naomi O’Leary explains the background to the case on the In the News podcast with Bernice Harrison.

Byelection in the UK

Our London Correspondent Mark Paul reports on today’s highly unusual byelection in Rochdale where veteran left-winger George Galloway is the bookies’ favourite to win and Labour’s bid to record a hat-trick of February byelection victories was thrown into chaos when its candidate in Rochdale, Azhar Ali, lost the support of party headquarters after allegations of anti-Semitism were levelled against him.

Best Reads

A front page story by Jack Power and Sarah Burns details how a Garda investigation is under way into a company that provided emergency accommodation for vulnerable children in State care, which Tusla found had “fabricated” pre-employment screenings of staff and altered vetting files.

Education Editor Carl O’Brien reports that college dropout rates have increased significantly amid signs that more students are struggling with issues such as mental health, long-distance commuting and financial pressures.

Patrick Freyne watches the hit Netflix show Drive to Survive, writing: “This is an ongoing reality show about a sport called Formula 1, which I can appreciate because it’s essentially a competition that’s all about punctuality. Synopsis: it’s about a bunch of men who are in a rush to get somewhere on time. As someone who is extremely punctual, I am confident that I would win at Formula 1.”


Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will take Parliamentary Questions at 9am.

Next up is Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth Roderic O’Gorman at 10.30am.

Leaders’ Questions is at noon.

The legislation for the upcoming referendum on the Unified Patent Court is back on the agenda for Government Business if it is not previously concluded from 1.44pm.

There will be statements on child and youth mental health services at 4pm.

TDs will have an opportunity to raise ‘Topical Issues’ at 6.27pm.

The Dáil will debate a motion on the report of the Committee on Gender Equality “Unfinished Democracy: Achieving Gender Equality” at 7.15pm.

The Seanad Public Consultation Committee is considering the future of local democracy across two sessions starting at 10.30am and 1.30pm respectively. The first session will hear from former ministers Brendan Howlin, Eamon Ó Cuív, John Paul Phelan and Noel Dempsey. Several city and county councillors will appear ta the second session in the afternoon.

Tusla, the Child and Family Agency will be before the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee to be quizzed on its 2022 financial statements and the Sláintecare Healthy Communities parenting programmes from 9.30am.

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue will appear at the committee on agriculture for pre-legislative scrutiny of the Agriculture Appeals (Amendment) Bill 2024 at 9.30am.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien is due to go back before the committee on housing, which is considering the Planning and Development Bill 2023 from 10am.

The full Dáil and Committee schedules can be found here and here.

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