Siún Ní Raghallaigh deserved better than this treatment from Catherine Martin

Not much natural justice in an effective ‘summary dismissal’ of the RTÉ chairwoman by a Minister now at risk of being hoisted by her own petard

An incredible farce has reached delirious new depths. Minister for Media Catherine Martin has issued what Labour leader Ivana Bacik has rightly identified as “effectively a summary dismissal” of RTÉ chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh live on air.

Ní Raghallaigh’s admission that she unintentionally “neglected to recollect” that the RTÉ board’s remuneration committee approved a payout made to former chief financial officer Richard Collins — as per the correct process — should have been seen for what it was: a wobble in Martin’s “direct line of communication” with RTÉ, not an event that either represented or required a severing of it.

Instead, we have this act of self-sabotage on the part of Martin. Mere hours after Ní Raghallaigh confessed her mistake while reminding the department that she appraised them of the matter last October, the Minister felt compelled to venture into the Prime Time studio, gravity etched on her face, to pointedly and repeatedly fail to express confidence in the RTÉ chairwoman.

There is not much natural justice here. Ní Raghallaigh is not a bold schoolgirl. She is the person who did the most to bring mismanagement at RTÉ into the public domain, the person who was instrumental in the clean-up job at the broadcaster after the mess left by the previous Montrose regime. “Herculean efforts”, the Minister herself called them.


If Martin or her Coalition colleagues thought the veteran businesswoman, who arrived at RTÉ with an impeccable CV, would troop in the morning after the Minister’s Prime Time performance for a slap-on-the-wrist summit, they are naive.

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This latest debacle will not restore trust in RTÉ. Instead, the main effect of the Minister’s action, other than to plunge RTÉ into even deeper chaos, is to increase the risk that she will be hoisted by her own petard, either over who knew what and when about the Collins payout — which employment lawyers agree is a fairly standard occurrence in Irish business — or over the next kerfuffle, the next misdemeanour.

A political precedent has been established. The next time Martin’s department receives legal advice, there will be demands for her to ignore it for the sake of instant transparency. The same goes for the rest of the Government.

And if she is ever found to have “misinformed” someone, the bar will have been set — she will have to go.

The Minister concluded her brief statement on Friday morning with a line in Irish — “Guím gach rath ar Shiún sa todhchaí” — wishing the former RTÉ chairwoman all the best in the future. But it is Martin who now needs the luck. Enormous luck, Minister.