Brian Dobson apologises for 'lapse in judgement' over breach of Covid-19 guidelines

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James Ward, PA

Updated at 14:58

Additional reporting from Vivienne Clarke 

RTÉ presenter Brian Dobson has apologised for his 'lapse of judgement' after posing for a photo with a retiring colleague while in breach of Covid-19 guidelines.

Speaking on his show RTÉ News at One this afternoon, he said: “Before we go any further I'd like to take a moment to comment on that report in today's Sun newspaper about a gathering here in RTE last week at which I was photographed beside a colleague who was retiring.

“We are advised strongly under Covid-19 guidelines not to be in such proximity to another person outside our immediate family bubble and I want once again to unreservedly apologise for my lapse in judgement in posing for the photograph, the responsibility is mine alone.

“I'm sorry to everyone who has sacrificed so much in recent months to those who have lost loved ones who are living with the after effects of the infection to those who have lost their jobs, livelihoods, their businesses, those who have been isolated from family and friends.

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“On this programme we've vigorously debated Covid measures, but what is not disputed is that each of us should make every effort to observe the restrictions in place at any given time. I'd be very concerned if any action of min undermined  that vital life saving public health advice.”

It comes as the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has called for an urgent review of what they described as “grave breaches” of Covid-19 guidelines at RTÉ.

Pictures have emerged of some of the broadcaster’s biggest names disregarding social distancing measures at a retirement party.

RTÉ has apologised for the incident, which involved news presenters including Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan.

But the NUJ has called for further action to be taken, with secretary Seamus Dooley warning the incident could undermine RTÉ’s ability to hold others to account.

Prime Time presenter Miriam O’Callaghan was among those pictured by the event (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Dooley said: “The apology by RTÉ management is welcome but this incident should not have happened.

“As a trade union representing workers in the building we believe that the Covid committee should examine all aspects of this gathering and put in place measures to ensure that such egregious breaches do not occur again.

“RTÉ needs to examine all aspects of its management of Covid-19.

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“RTÉ workers have worked extremely hard since March and have held public figures to account for their actions.

“I have been contacted by a number of members who believe this incident has the capacity to undermine that hard-earned trust and confidence.”

RTÉ have confirmed that a small number of on-screen staff and officials attended what they described as an “impromptu” farewell party for a colleague.

Many of them posed for pictures, without wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines.

 

RTÉ said in a statement: “A small number of RTÉ personnel working on site recently attended a short impromptu gathering in a public area and in the place of work of a long-serving colleague to say farewell on her last day.”

The statement said that while social distancing was observed at last week’s gathering, “a number of those present briefly posed for a photo with their departing colleague, before returning to work.

“These contacts were not close contacts as defined by HSPC guidelines. They were brief casual contacts, which while well-intentioned, were unnecessarily risky and should not have happened.

“RTÉ and those involved regret this occurred. Over the last few days we have reminded all staff of their obligations to keep both themselves and the site safe, particularly over the very busy few weeks we are heading into.”

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Other who attended include political correspondent Paul Cunningham, presenter Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh, newsreader Eileen Dunne and managing director of RTÉ News Jon Williams.

Mr Williams said: “I deeply regret not thinking through the consequences of a momentary lapse of judgement. It was wrong and I’m very sorry.”

Mr Dooley said it would be wrong if “exceptional lapses of judgment” were to undermine the work of RTÉ.

He added: “That is why we are seeking an urgent review, so that lessons can be learned.”

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