Former HSE boss sounded out as new chair of RTÉ board

Paul Reid is one of a number of potential candidates understood to have been approached

Former Health Service Executive chief executive Paul Reid has been sounded out by the Government about the possibility of becoming the new chair of the RTÉ board.

Mr Reid is understood to be one of a number of potential candidates informally approached in recent days. No decisions have been made and discussions in Government and with potential candidates are likely to continue over the weekend. Ministers have indicated they hope to appoint a new chair next week.

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

Senior Government sources say, however, that any new appointments will not be solely a decision for Ms Martin, with the three party leaders likely to be closely involved in the process. There have been discussions on possible candidates in recent days, and it is understood that some have been lobbying for the post.

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Others are not keen, however. It is understood that Prof Brian MacCraith, who chaired the Future of Media Commission and oversaw the successful roll-out of the vaccine programme during the Covid pandemic, and whose name had been widely floated in RTÉ, is not interested in the role.

There was a further departure from the broadcaster’s board yesterday when PJ Mathews, an associate professor in the School of English, Drama and Film at UCD, resigned citing work commitments.

Mr Mathews’s departure means there are currently five vacancies on the board of RTÉ, including the chairperson role. Two of the seats on the 12-person board have been vacant for just over four months and another has been empty since just before Christmas.

As well as a successor to former chairwoman Siún Ní Raghallaigh, who resigned last week, 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 June last year.

A spokeswoman confirmed that the quorum for the board is seven members – meaning it can now function only with a 100 per cent attendance rate.

Speaking after a meeting with the board yesterday, Ms Martin said the encounter had been “positive and forward looking”.

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

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.”

However, the Government remains sharply divided on Ms Martin’s preference to scrap the licence fee and replace it with direct State funding.

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

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times