Bakhurst called to meeting with Minister over exit payments to senior executives

Request follows calls from Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Ministers for full transparency from broadcaster

RTÉ is facing strong political pressure to reveal the details of exit packages paid to senior executives who have left the station in recent years.

Minister for Media Catherine Martin has requested a meeting with RTÉ’s director general Kevin Bakhurst and chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh on Monday.

It follows calls over the weekend from the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and senior Ministers for full transparency from the broadcaster about the payments made to departing executives.

However, senior RTÉ figures believe that legal agreements guaranteeing confidentiality are watertight, and to break them would risk further litigation.


It was reported over the weekend that the former director of strategy Rory Coveney, who oversaw the failed Toy Show the Musical project that lost €2.3 million, was paid about €200,000 when he left the station last year.

In a statement, RTÉ said that the former chief financial officer Richard Collins left the station last year after “independent mediation”. It said that the agreement included a “binding confidentiality clause that was agreed to by both sides and in the interest of fairness and respect cannot be breached”.

But the news of the payouts and the approach by RTÉ to the confidentiality guarantees have infuriated some Ministers. Many Ministers and senior officials understood that Mr Coveney had simply resigned and only learned of the exit payment over the weekend.

Mr Coveney’s brother, Minister for Enterprise Simon Coveney, declined to answer questions from journalists about his brother’s affairs on Sunday. Speaking at a Fine Gael selection convention in Dublin, Mr Coveney said he had recused himself from discussions at Cabinet on RTÉ because of his brother’s role, and would continue to do so.

“For obvious reasons I have stayed out of debate and there are more than enough politicians to make comment in relation to RTÉ,” he said.

Pressed by reporters, Mr Coveney said he would not discuss what conversations he had with any of his siblings, but said it was a matter for individuals whether they wished to disclose their packages.

Standing beside him, Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris said that the “Taoiseach and the Tánaiste have both made the Government’s position clear . . . It’s really important that anyone who can assist the Oireachtas committee structure should do that.”

There were strongly-worded interventions by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Tánaiste Micheál Martin on the issue over the weekend.

Mr Martin told RTÉ’s This Week programme “there should be full transparency in terms of salaries and packages”.

Mr Varadkar told the Sunday Independent he wanted to see “full information and clarity from RTÉ”.

The demand for transparency on exit packages for RTÉ executives was echoed by Opposition parties.

Meanwhile, Companies Office records show Breda O’Keeffe, the former RTÉ chief financial officer, resigned as a director from six Blackrock Clinic companies after she became embroiled in the RTÉ payments affair last summer.

The Blackrock Health group is one of the largest private hospital operators in the State. Official filings show Ms O’Keeffe left the boards of the six companies on July 25th, 2023.

Ms O’Keeffe did not respond to a Sunday text message seeking comment on her departure from the Blackrock companies.

Her resignations were submitted three weeks before Mr Bakhurst asked legal firm McCann FitzGerald to examine the severance package under which Ms O’Keeffe received €450,000 when she left the national broadcaster in 2020.

Ms O’Keeffe has made no public comment on a statement by Ms Martin that she is under “moral obligation” to repay the money.

The Blackrock group had nothing to say about the circumstances of Ms O’Keeffe’s resignation from the companies. “Blackrock Health will not comment on anything with regard to their employees,” the group said in response to questions.

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Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times