Was Bakhurst at the committee to make the tea? And a backbencher on ‘bad Government business’

Your essential end-of-week politics catch up including a win for the man who once pretended to be a cat on Celebrity Big Brother

Kevin Bakhurst: The Politics Fix

Story of the Week

The fallout from the resignation of RTÉ chairwoman was centre-stage on Tuesday evening when Minister for Media Catherine Martin faced a grilling from TDs and Senators over her role Siún Ní Raghallaigh’s departure.

It was Martin’s failure to express confidence in Ní Raghallaigh during a now infamous Prime Time interview last week that led the RTÉ chairwoman to fall on her sword in the early hours of last Friday morning.

The whole thing centred on controversial exit packages for senior RTÉ executives and Martin’s view that she had been misinformed about them – albeit unintentionally – by Ní Raghallaigh at meetings earlier in the week.

It emerged at the committee meeting that Ní Raghallaigh had already warned she would resign prior to Martin’s interview with Miriam O’Callaghan.


Some committee members noted that RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst also attended the meetings where Martin had been asking about exit packages and queried why he did not speak up.

As Miriam Lord highlighted in her piece on the committee proceedings Fianna Fáil Senator Shane Cassells asked: “Was he there to make the tea?”

As the week continued it was revealed by The Irish Times that RTÉ was not the only public sector organisation where there have been exit packages for departing senior management.

A senior executive at the HSE is to receive a redundancy package of nearly €400,000 under a deal approved by Government departments and finalised in recent days.

But back to RTÉ.

The Government hopes a new chairperson can be appointed to the embattled national broadcaster at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Harry McGee had a look at who could be in line for the job.

Bust up

“Bad business, bad Minister, bad Government business,” are not words you’d expect to come from a TD on the Coalition’s own benches.

But Fine Gael’s Fergus O’Dowd frustration over plans to use the D Hotel in Drogheda as accommodation for asylum seekers boiled over as he took a swipe at Green Party minister for integration Roderic O’Gorman in the Dáil on Thursday.

Louth TD O’Dowd said people in Drogheda always welcome people into the town but there is concern at losing the hotel for tourism use.

“You’re taking from us our only hotel,” O’Dowd said.

“Leave the hotel to the people. Leave the hotel to tourism, leave the hotel to business interests,” he urged.

He said more than 200 contracts have been signed for refugee accommodation and there are no cooling off periods if an issue arises. It was at this point that he launched his “bad minister, bad government business” broadside adding: “we want to be on your side not against you”

O’Gorman replied: “You speak of a cooling-off period as if these are easy decisions that our department is taking in a normal time.” He said the Government is responding to “a humanitarian crisis” with 1,000 male asylum seekers already without accommodation.

He also responded to a suggestion by O’Dowd that there are 220 available spaces for asylum seekers available elsewhere in Drogheda saying government decisions mean these can only be used for Ukrainian refugees.

O’Dowd fired back “That’s not true” and O’Gorman replied: “With respect deputy that is true” as they began clashing again.

Banana skin

Fianna Fáil ran a disastrous European Election campaign in the Midlands-North-West constituency in 2019 when its two-candidate strategy failed badly. Neither Anne Rabbitte nor Brendan Smith took any of the four seats in the European Parliament on that occasion. The party this week announced a high risk three candidate strategy for the constituency which will have five seats after June’s election. Barry Cowen TD and Senators Lisa Chambers and Niall Blaney will battle it out in the hope of taking seats for Fianna Fáil in the sprawling constituency for the first time in a decade. The strategy is certainly brave. We’ll learn if it is ingenious or foolish once the results roll in this June.

Winners and losers

Winner: He once pretended to be a cat on Celebrity Big Brother and now controversial politician George Galloway is returning to the House of Commons after winning Thursday’s Rochdale by-election. His victory speech included an attack on Labour Party’s leader Keir Starmer for the party’s stance on Gaza. Mr Galloway has now unseated Labour, his former party, in three elections and will return to parliament representing a fourth constituency in 37 years. After he was interrupted by a heckler accusing him of being a “climate change denier”, and confetti was thrown at him, he went on to pledge to campaign for the return of a maternity ward to Rochdale and to help save the town’s troubled football club.

Loser: There was a bad day in court for the British government when a judge at the High Court in Belfast ruled that conditional immunity from prosecutions for Troubles-related killings, a central clause of the UK government’s controversial Legacy Act, is in breach of international human rights law. All of the parties in Northern Ireland oppose the Legacy Act and the Irish Government has taken an interstate case against it in a European Court. Our Northern Editor Freya McClements wrote of the court proceedings in Belfast that the judgment is not the end of the Legacy Act, but it could be the beginning of it.

The Big Read

You’d barely know it but there are referendums on family and care taking place next Friday, International Women’s Day. Mary Carolan has a Questions and Answers piece with the chairwoman of the independent Electoral Commission Ms Justice running in Saturday’s newspaper and online. The Commission is tasked with providing impartial information on the referendums so the chat with the chairwoman should be a useful read for anyone seeking clarity on the two votes. We will also be looking at the funding of the ‘Yes-Yes’ and ‘No-No’ campaigns and how much they have in their respective war chests.

Hear here

In Inside Politics Podcast on Wednesday Hugh Linehan discussed the European elections with political scientist Theresa Reidy and Political Correspondent Harry McGee. Harry explains how useful it is as a barometer for the General Election.

It was about as effective as Michael Fisch’s famous weather forecast that no hurricane was about to strike the southeast of England in 1987, and a hurricane promptly devastated the country only 24 hours later.