RTÉ braces itself for results of investigations into Toy Show the Musical and staff exits

The latest reports on the national broadcaster are expected to be published this week

RTÉ faces another bout of turmoil ahead of two new reports on governance breakdown at the national broadcaster, prompting yet more political scrutiny as the Coalition tries to settle a new financial model for the station.

Seven months after the disclosure of misleading statements about Ryan Tubridy’s money set off RTÉ's worst crisis, the latest reports will examine how the organisation came to lose €2.2 million in the Toy Show the Musical debacle and assess whether staff severance deals were managed correctly.

Dáil public accounts committee chairman Brian Stanley, a Sinn Féin TD, said the committee awaits the release of the findings before finalising its own report on the affair. “We don’t want to sign off until we see these reports,” Mr Stanley said.

After a series of bruising committee hearings with RTÉ last year, the latest reports may also be followed by more visits to Leinster House. In addition to the PAC, the Oireachtas arts and media committee has been asking searching questions of the broadcaster.


RTÉ's board hired accountants Grant Thornton to examine the musical’s failure amid political uproar over the loss incurred by the Christmas 2022 production. After questions over the severance terms for former chief financial officer Breda O’Keeffe, director general Kevin Bakhurst separately asked solicitors McCann FitzGerald to examine staff exit deals.

In preparation behind the scenes for several months, the two reports had been scheduled for release in December. However, publication was deferred at the last minute because the work was ongoing.

The documents now appear set to be published later this week, bringing RTÉ back into the centre of political debate as the Dáil resumes after the Christmas recess.

With three other reports already published on the affair and more still to come in addition to the report of the PAC, RTÉ is far from resolving a governance scandal that exposed glaring weakness in its internal controls and crippled licence fee income.

The station received a Government bailout after the collapse of licence sales but there is still no clarity over plans to overhaul the funding of public service broadcasting.

The question has divided the Coalition. Minister for Media Catherine Martin wants “serious consideration” for direct taxpayer funding but Minister for Finance Michael McGrath is not in favour.

The Government is unlikely to settle the matter before Prof Niamh Brennan of UCD produces a separate report on RTÉ's governance framework for Ms Martin. The Minister also asked consultant Brendan McGinty to examine how RTÉ engages presenters and contractors.

The wait for these reports means the affair will rumble on for some time to come.

The Grant Thornton review of the Toy Show musical has been dubbed GT3 after the firm wrote two previous reports on payments to Tubridy, the former star presenter of The Late Late Show. Accountants Mazars separately reviewed RTÉ spending on sports junkets and entertaining clients, saying it was “not subject” to internal controls.

RTÉ has acknowledged a “loss of control” over the musical, which was supposed to boost its income but ended up with a huge deficit. In board minutes, RTÉ chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh said there had been “no risk assessment” on the project.

The production was marred by poor ticket sales and cancelled shows because of illness among cast and crew.

Given serious reputational and financial harm arising from the show, the extent of any oversight of the production by the audit and risk committee of the RTÉ board remains in question. The committee advises the RTÉ board on risk appetite, risk tolerance and risk strategy, so embarking on an untested theatrical production that went far beyond the day-to-day work of radio and television broadcasting would appear to come within its remit.

“Here you had the commercial side of RTÉ embarking on a project, in a crowded market,” Mr Stanley said.

“It was badly thought out, without any proper business case being done. I think it’s accepted now by all that it was, for want of a better word, a flop.”

McCann FitzGerald has been examining whether the terms and conditions of the severance programme were complied with in each case where a voluntary exit offer was made in 2017-2021.

One question under examination is whether tax-exempt statutory redundancy payments were “appropriately paid”.

Another question was whether there was consistency in the approach taken with individuals who applied to leave but where no voluntary exit offers were made.

After months of disruption, all of this carries the potential for further damaging disclosures from Montrose.

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  • After a series bruising committee hearings with RTÉ last year, the latest reports may be followed by more visits to Leinster House. In addition to the PAC, the Oireachtas arts and media committee has been asking searching questions of the broadcaster.
Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times