RTÉ payments scandal: 10 days that shook the national broadcaster once again

The latest flare-up began with the revelation that former strategy director Rory Coveney received an exit payment, and culminated in the resignation of chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh

Wednesday February 14th: RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst tells Oireachtas committee the former chief financial officer, Breda O’Keeffe, received €450,000 exit pay when leaving in 2020. He also reveals exit payment to former strategy director Rory Coveney, the driving force behind the failed Toy Show the Musical. Bakhurst didn’t quantify the Coveney payment, setting off a clamour for details on all severance deals.

Thursday February 15th: Bakhurst seeks fresh legal advice on the disclosure of exit payments.

Friday February 16th: RTÉ says Bakhurst did not receive a payment when he left in 2016. Having refused for legal reasons to disclose how much it paid Coveney, RTÉ declines to say whether O’Keeffe’s successor Richard Collins received an exit payment when he left last autumn.

Saturday February 17th: Bakhurst indicates Coveney received about one year’s pay but does not quantify the sum. He issues statement saying former head of legal Paula Mullooly and former commercial director Geraldine O’Leary did not receive exit payments. He notes independent mediation with Collins before he left under “confidential” terms.


Sunday February 18th: Reports emerge that Coveney received €200,000, a figure not disputed by RTÉ or Coveney. As Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and other Government members press RTÉ for transparency, Minister for Media Catherine Martin calls Bakhurst and RTÉ chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh to a meeting the next day.

Monday February 19th: Bakhurst and Ní Raghallaigh meet Martin for two hours. It later emerges the Minister asked Ní Raghallaigh whether the Coveney and Collins exit payments went through RTÉ's board. Ní Raghallaigh said they did not, neglecting to say the Collins deal went through the board’s remuneration committee.

Tuesday February 20th: Varadkar tells the Dáil the drip feed of disclosure is “seriously damaging” to RTÉ.

Wednesday February 21st: As political pressure piles on RTÉ, Bakhurst and Ní Raghallaigh meet Martin again. They discuss updated legal advice saying RTÉ cannot breach exit pay confidentiality. Martin again asks Ní Raghallaigh whether the Coveney and Collins deals went to the board. She again says they did not.

Thursday February 22nd: Ní Raghallaigh contacts Martin’s department to “clarify” details, recalling the Collins payment went to the remuneration committee and that she told the department the day after the October deal. This displeases the Minister, who writes to the chairwoman seeking a meeting the next day. On RTÉ's Prime Time, Martin says she was “misinformed” of the board’s role in Collins’s exit package and declines to express confidence in Ní Raghallaigh.

Friday February 23rd: Ní Raghallaigh resigns shortly before 1am, saying it is clear from Martin’s interview her position is not tenable. Martin comes under immediate Opposition attack, accused of summarily sacking the chairwoman on live television. As the RTÉ board goes into an emergency meeting, both the Taoiseach and Tánaiste Micheál Martin express confidence in the Minister.

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Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times