Eight new things we learned about the RTÉ pay controversy

Cars, high earners, allowances, Tubridy’s arrangements, an exclusive London club Soho House and more

In advance of the latest instalment in the long-running saga over pay and governance at RTÉ, the broadcaster has sent hundreds of pages of documents to the Oireachtas media committee. Tomorrow top executives and board members will be grilled at a lunchtime meeting. But what do the documents tell us?

Cash for cars

The most eye-catching detail relates to car allowances, which RTÉ has told the committee date back to the 1980s. While there is a lot of detail, none of the 61 staff members who benefited from a car allowance are named — although the broadcaster makes clear they wouldn’t necessarily need a driving licence to avail of the perk.

The value of the car allowances ranges from €1,000-€1,500 up to €24,000-€25,000, with six people in receipt of the top payment, and 17 in the mid-range of €12,500-€13,000. Ten people got the lowest level, while 12 were in receipt of €7,000-€7,500.

Documents show the value last year of the car allowances was €656,651 — one of the most expensive allowances paid out by the broadcaster.


A 2017 note of a meeting of the remuneration and management subcommittee of the RTÉ board outlines how car allowances were discussed in the context of top executive pay, which is something the committee may want to delve into. It outlines how former director general (DG) Dee Forbes, former chairwoman Moya Doherty and others discussed how car allowances between €16,700 and €24,500 were attached to five new contracts for top executives, with the committee noting the “unfortunate effect” of a cap on the director general’s salary on other pay “which left very little space for manoeuvre at senior level”.

Top earners

RTÉ is digging in on the issue of naming top earners. While the fees of top presenters have been public for years, the committee had sought a list of those in the top 100 earners who had agreed to have their pay released. However, in response the broadcaster said it has not put this question to staff, saying it doubts it could do so due to data protection concerns, and also raising fears that ultimately even the salaries of those who would not consent could become identifiable.

At the other end of the scale, the documents disclose that at the end of last year, the lowest-paid workers in RTÉ started on salaries of between €24,000 and €26,000, rising over time to between €32,000 and €41,000. It says that the lowest-paid workers are those working limited hours or providing services on an ad hoc basis.


The documents show that RTÉ staff earned just short of €4.1 million in allowances in 2022, ranging from €394,190 in 306 long-service payments, to €407,675 in payments to those at producer level. There was also €980,905 paid to those taking on extra responsibilities and €264,221 paid in 65 “call-out” payments. Some €491,362 was made in 46 “personal” payments, a category which includes allowances related to being on air, by way of example.

Ryan Tubridy’s deal(s)

The new materials break down that when the costs of RTÉ paying for events linked to the infamous tripartite agreement between Renault, RTÉ and Ryan Tubridy were accounted for (including a chauffeur and car rental service for some people involved), the total cash cost was €270,559, some €225,000 of which was for Tubridy.

Separately, there are minutes of a key meeting of the remuneration committee which considered the deal to bring Tubridy back to RTÉ — which fell at the final hurdle the day after the meeting in question. They show, as is known, that Tubridy had agreed to repay €150,000 under the original tripartite deal and there was “confirmation in writing” of this and that he was to be paid €170,000 per annum for a two-year radio contract including a podcast.

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It shows that subject to two amendments relating to the publication of details and the register of interests, two members of the three-person committee were “happy to approve the contract in principle”. A third, Connor Murphy, said he felt that “given the unique sensitivities of the contract, it would benefit from a discussion at board level”, which would happen the following day.

Soho House

RTÉ's possession of a membership of Soho House, an exclusive London club, garnered attention during committee hearings over the summer — with the station insisting it needed to use facilities at the club for meetings. Documents show that accommodation was booked by RTÉ on just two occasions since 2019, both times by former commercial director Geraldine O’Leary. The first was in December last year for a leadership summit and the second in April of this year. There is no reason supplied for the second stay, but the documents note that “no meetings took place in Soho House”.

Bogus self-employment

Before the storm over Tubridy’s pay, RTÉ was at the centre of a slow-burning controversy over wrongly classifying workers at the station as self-employed. One of the big unknowns about the impact of this practice is how much the broadcaster might have to pay out in backdated PRSI contributions — a closely guarded secret on which RTÉ has refused to budge. The documents outline that RTÉ has “to a large extent” accepted the decision of deciding officers who examined each case, but has 32 appeals active with the Department of Social Protection. Of the five that have been heard, two have been successful, one upheld and two are yet to be determined.

The documents show that since September 2020, 144 investigations have been carried out. The broadcaster is “unsure” about how many there will be in total, with the Department of Social Protection variously referring to 356 workers or 700 workers in different correspondence.

The broadcaster says it is “by and large” accepting the decisions and only appealing those where it believes there are inaccuracies “in fact or law”.

Toy Show the musical

According to the documents, a “notional assessment” of the value of advertising to promote Toy Show the Musical between May and December last year was approximately €1.3 million.

Extracurricular work

The documents update the committee on plans to introduce a register of interests for RTÉ staff, which was published separately last month, including the introduction of a register of gifts received by employees. RTÉ is consulting the data protection watchdog while developing these proposals.

They also confirm that no RTÉ employees are presenting podcasts outside of their employment with RTÉ — although it does not address whether that is the case for contractors who provide services to the broadcaster.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times