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RTÉ witnesses endure pointed but mostly respectful questioning at Oireachtas committee

Senior figures from national broadcaster subjected to hours of detailed questioning by politicians about payments to Tubridy

The senior representatives of RTÉ who appeared before the Oireachtas committee on Wednesday to give evidence about the Ryan Tubridy controversy were subjected to hours of sustained and largely well-directed questioning from politicians.

The appearance of the RTÉ executives and board members before the Committee on Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht came against a backdrop of wall-to-wall coverage of the controversy over the past week.

The first of the committee members to ask questions was Imelda Munster of Sinn Féin, who put a succession of hard questions to the witnesses, but often interrupted with a new question soon after the witness started to reply.

The session remained mostly tense thereafter, but did slow down, allowing the witnesses to give more substantial answers to the questions they were asked.


The politicians were told the meeting, which began at 1.30pm, would be restricted to three hours and that each member would be allowed ask questions before non-member politicians would be allowed to become involved.

Most of the politicians used their allotted time to ask questions rather than express their personal opinions, though that was not always the case. Harsh comments were made, but the meeting was mostly conducted in a respectful and fair fashion.

At one stage the witnesses looked uncomfortable as Independent Deputy Mattie McGrath appeared to repeatedly ask who they were “lying to”. However it then emerged that he was being misunderstood, and was asking them who they were “loyal to”.

Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick said that the former director general, Dee Forbes had been “thrown under the bus”, and asked the interim director general Adrian Lynch if he was afraid that such a fate awaited him also. “I have no fear,” Lynch said.

Senator Fintan Warfield of Sinn Féin raised the issue of presenters getting free cars as part of “ambassador” deals, and explored the issue of possible conflicts of interest where presenters represented by an agent might be dealing with a topic on air that affected corporate clients also represented by their agent.

RTÉ still struggling with fallout from Tubridy’s secret pay deal

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Senator Marie Sherlock zeroed in on corporate culture at RTÉ and got straightforward answers from board chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh about her unhappiness with RTÉ's culture, how the executive operates, the negotiation of contracts withniamhtop earners, and the role played by agents.

Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon had obviously done his homework and had a series of pointed questions for the witnesses. Anne O’Leary, chair of the board’s audit committee, told him she was reviewing the contracts negotiated by agents on behalf of top presenters so as to better inform herself.

There were good, direct questions from, among others Shane Cassells (FF), Malcolm Byrne (FF), Brendan Griffin (FG) and Christopher O’Sullivan (FF).

Perhaps the most successful questioning came near the end, from non-committee member Richard Boyd Barrett of People Before Profit. He framed his questions around the proposition that the cost-cutting drive at RTÉ encountered “push back” from Tubridy or his agent, and that, because of the credit arrangement entered into with Renault it was never the case that anyone other than the public – by way of the licence fee – was going to pay for the deal that was negotiated.

Lynch appeared to agree with both propositions.

The meeting ran on for about two hours longer than its appointed three hours. The senior RTÉ representatives are back before the Dáil Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, no doubt for more of the same.