RTÉ board considering exit package for individual that could cost €400,000

Severance payments for departing executives caused controversy in recent months

RTÉ chairman Terence O'Rourke said a request for an exit package for an individual has come before the board. Photograph: Sam Boal/Collins

RTÉ's board has been dealing with a proposal for an exit package to be paid to an individual that could cost in the region of €400,000, the Oireachtas Committee on Media has heard.

Severance packages for a number of departing senior RTÉ executives have been a matter of controversy in recent months.

RTÉ has also been engulfed in a storm since last summer in the wake of revelations about undisclosed payments to former Late Late Show host Ryan Tubridy as well as separate issues related to corporate hospitality.

On Wednesday RTÉ chairman Terence O’Rourke confirmed to the Oireachtas that a request for an exit package for an individual has come before the board in response to questions from Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin.


Mr O’Rourke told the committee that he understood that legally he could not offer details about the individual in question.

Asked by Mr Griffin if the sum involved could be in excess of €400,000, Mr O’Rourke replied: “I don’t know the number but it could be at that level, yes.”

In February RTÉ's director general Kevin Bakhurst told the same committee that the former chief financial officer, Breda O’Keeffe, received €450,000 exit pay when leaving the broadcaster in 2020.

The committee also heard that RTÉ's former director of strategy Rory Coveney had received an exit payment when he departed RTÉ.

Mr Coveney was reported at the time to have received the equivalent of a year’s salary, suggesting his payout was about €200,000, but this was not confirmed.

A row over the information provided to Minister for Media Catherine Martin in relation to an exit payment for former chief financial officer Richard Collins led to the resignation of former RTÉ chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh in February.

Mr O’Rourke was appointed as her replacement in March.

Mr Griffin asked about any proposals for pay or severance payments from RTÉ management that have been refused during Mr O’Rourke’s time on the board.

Mr O’Rourke said there have been no refusals but the board had queried proposals for pay arrangements for “senior people”. He confirmed this involved pay increases but said they were “very modest”, that the board had wanted more detail and “got the right answers in the end”.

Mr O’Rourke said one proposed exit package has come before the board in his time.

He referred to an interview Mr Bakhurst had given to the Currency where the director general talked about “when people are leaving an organisation, the employment legislation in this country is very strong. It gives lots of protection to employees”.

Mr O’Rourke said there are two ways to deal with this: either extensive and costly litigation or “you can do agreements with people, would probably end up in the Workplace Relations Commission”. He said such agreements are typically confidential.

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Mr O’Rourke said RTÉ had published some details of last year’s exit packages and its 2024 annual report would include information on any paid this year.

Mr Griffin asked if the proposed exit package could be “€400,000 or possibly north of that?”

Mr O’Rourke replied: “To clarify that, we haven’t signed off on anything yet because it hasn’t been concluded yet. But there is a process under way which could end up in that, yes.”

He also said: “When you are dealing with senior people who had been well-paid ... the employment legislation requires that they be dealt with equitably ... That’s what the law requires.”

Mr Griffin said the issue “might require further follow-up from the committee”. He said: “it concerns me, it sits uncomfortably with me that we may still be in that territory. I’m cognisant of all of our legal obligations ... but still that won’t sit well with the public I’m sure.”

Later Mr O’Rourke said that Ms Martin has been aware of the exit package proposal “for a while” and he spoke to her about it as recently as two weeks ago.

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Asked about the proposed exit package at RTÉ, a spokesman for Ms Martin said: “The Minister met with the RTÉ chair recently ... In the course of the meeting the Minister was advised that a HR/staffing matter had been brought to the RTÉ board, but that it was still in process and had yet to be brought to a conclusion. As such it would not be appropriate for the Minister to make any further comment.”

An RTÉ statement said: “Any settlement payments agreed by RTÉ will be in line with RTÉ's legal obligations, individual employment rights and in line with Comptroller and Auditor General guidelines.

“RTÉ has no additional comment while the process referred to by the chair of the board of RTÉ has not concluded.”

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Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times