RTÉ board holds ‘constructive’ meeting with Minister as broadcaster names new CFO

Friday’s meeting ‘focused on the future of RTÉ and public service media’ after resignation of board chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh

Catherine holding image

A meeting between Minister for Media Catherine Martin and the board of RTÉ has been described as “positive” by both sides.

It was the first meeting between Ms Martin and the RTÉ board since the resignation of its former chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh last week.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh resigned last Friday after Ms Martin failed to express confidence in her during a Prime Time interview.

It emerged afterwards that another board member, Dr PJ Mathews, has resigned, in his case due to work commitments according to statements from the board and the Minister.


Mr Mathews’ departure means there are currently five vacancies on the Board of RTÉ, including the chairperson role.

The vacancy rate is just over 40 per cent of the 12-seat Board.

Two of the seats have been vacant for just over four months and another has been empty since just before Christmas.

As well as a successor for Ms Ní Raghallaigh, the Government has to find four other people prepared to serve on the Board of the embattled national broadcaster which has been hit by a string of controversies since the end of June last year.

Speaking after today’s meeting Ms Martin said it was a “positive and forward looking”.

She said she expressed her appreciation “for the significant commitment which the board has demonstrated over what has been a very difficult eight months”.

Ms Martin said she was given an update of the board’s “important work” on “RTÉ's new strategy and the reforms which have been put in place.”

She said she acknowledged “the dedication and commitment which the former chair [Ms Ní Raghallaigh] had shown in this regard.”

She also acknowledged Mr Mathews’ contribution.Mr Mathews is an associate professor in the School of English, Drama and Film at UCD.

Ms Martin said her “immediate focus is on appointing a new chair and additional members very shortly to ensure that the board can continue its important work.”

The Government hopes to be able to make an appointment at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Ms Martin added: “I also provided assurances of my absolute commitment to a Government decision on a new and sustainable funding model by the summer.”

A statement from the RTÉ Board welcomed the “open and constructive meeting, focused on the future of RTÉ and public service media”.

It said the Board discussed the importance of continuing work on the new RTÉ strategy following the publication of the reports by two Government-appointed expert advisory committees.

Ms Martin expects to receive the final reports on the reviews of governance, culture, contractor fees, HR and other matters at RTÉ later this month.

Earlier, RTÉ announced a new chief financial officer (CFO) to replace Richard Collins, the former executive whose exit package has been at the centre of recent controversy at the broadcaster.

Mari Hurley will take up the role in late summer.

RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst said: “Mari is a highly experienced CFO with extensive experience in setting and driving the strategic direction of global businesses.

“Her proven deliveries in the development of systems for enhanced governance, control processes and provision of regular reporting, aligns strongly with RTÉ's renewed mission around transparency, accountability and good governance.”

Ms Hurley’s previous CFO roles include regulated entities AA Ireland and Premier Lotteries Ireland – the operator of the National Lottery, as well as Hostelworld Group plc and Sherry FitzGerald Group.

A graduate of University College Cork who has also studied at Harvard Business School, she was CFO of Hostelworld when it listed on the UK and Irish stock exchanges in 2015.

She is also currently a non-executive director of the National Asset Management Agency (Nama), and was a non-executive director at Ervia until August 2021.

In a statement, Ms Hurley said: “I’m delighted to be joining RTÉ and its leadership team at this critical time for the organisation and for the future of public service media in Ireland. I look forward to working with the director general, the RTÉ board, its audit & risk committee and the finance team to develop RTÉ's financial strategy and to bring my experience of successfully leading and implementing change and transformation programmes to RTÉ, in line with the unique values and obligations of public service.”

As controversy continues over the governance of RTÉ, the Oireachtas media committee has extended an invitation to the broadcaster’s former chairwoman to appear before it. It follows a meeting of the committee earlier this week at which Ms Martin revealed a day of frantic exchanges between her officials and Ms Ní Raghallaigh in the run-in to the Minister’s appearance on Prime Time.

Ms Martin cited repeated instances of Ms Ní Raghallaigh giving her inaccurate information about the board’s involvement in signing off on an exit package for former CFO Mr Collins, as well as having apologised for previously failing to tell the Minister she had sought the resignation of former RTÉ director general Dee Forbes.

The former director general of the Department of Arts and Media, Katherine Licken, is also to be invited before the committee.

The Minister has been criticised by opposition politicians, including Labour TD Alan Kelly, who said it was not “credible” that Ms Martin’s officials did not know about sign-off requirements for RTÉ exit packages.

Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty described her Prime Time interview as “tantamount to a public humiliation of a public servant who has served this State for many years”.

“What you did in effect was ensure that Ms Ní Raghallaigh was pushed over the cliff,” he said.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson

Jade Wilson is a reporter for The Irish Times