RTÉ board did not disclose new approval duties, minister says

Rté Board Did Not Disclose New Approval Duties, Minister Says
23/02/2024 Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin TD pictured this afternoon at Government Buildings where she addressed matters related to RTE and the resignation of Siun Ni Raghallaighs chair of the RTÉ Board......Picture Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin
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By Cillian Sherlock, PA

The RTÉ board did not tell the Department of Media that a key subcommittee had been given a role in approving severance payments for executives, Minister Catherine Martin has claimed.

The additional duties of the remuneration committee meant that the chair of the RTÉ board was involved in signing off on a termination fee for former chief financial officer Richard Collins.


Siún Ní Raghallaigh resigned as RTÉ chair on Friday after Ms Martin said she had been misinformed about her role in the approval.

RTE pay revelations
Siún Ní Raghallaigh resigned as chair of the RTÉ board after minister Catherine Martin said she had been misinformed about her role in the approval of an exit package (Niall Carson/PA)

New terms of reference were introduced for the remuneration committee in September 2023 amid a widening scandal over corporate and financial governance at the broadcaster.


Since then, all changes to executive pay and terms had to be approved by the remuneration committee, which was chaired by Ms Ni Raghallaigh.

This was introduced as part of a wide range of measures to strengthen controls and fully restore public trust in RTÉ.

The RTÉ board said on Friday that the Department of Media was informed about these new terms when they were introduced in September.

However, Ms Martin said she was not specifically informed about the committee’s role in approving termination payments and was only informed about Ms Ni Raghallaigh’s involvement in Mr Collins’ termination agreement on Thursday.


On Friday, she said: “There is a letter I received (from the RTÉ board) in September that talks about these new reforms.

RTE pay revelations
Former RTÉ chief financial officer Richard Collins’ termination fee was approved by the remuneration committee (Brian Lawless/PA)

“There was an annex to it, and it talked about its role in executive pay. It did not mention in the annex, it did not give the severance payments.


“That was not included in the letter and we were not given to any new terms of reference.”

The remuneration committee approved a package including a termination payment for Mr Collins on October 9th 2023 after an independent mediation process.

RTÉ director-general Kevin Bakhurst attended that meeting.

The board said Ms Ni Raghallaigh contacted the then-secretary general of the Department Katherine Licken the following day to inform her that the remuneration committee had approved an exit agreement with Mr Collins.


The minister said she had been in contact with Ms Licken and that while the former secretary general remembers being told on October 10 that the process had concluded, she had no recollection of being informed about the termination payment.


There was no note of this meeting taken.

Ms Martin said: “There was no note taken because it wasn’t of significance.

She added: “If there had been (mention of an approval of an exit package), there certainly would have been a note taken.”

Ms Martin said she was aware at the time that Mr Collins was leaving with an exit package, but had not been told that the board had any role in approving it.

The minister said she asked Ms Ní Raghallaigh specific questions on two occasions this week about whether she personally had approved the package, following media reports to that effect.

Ms Martin said that Ms Ní Raghallaigh had told her that the board had no role in Mr Collins’ package but said it would be involved for future exits.

“So she talked in the future tense even on Wednesday. So she was clarifying with me for a second day that she had no role whatsoever,” she said.

However, she said the Department was then informed on Thursday by Ms Ni Raghallaigh that she had approved the package as part of her role as chair of the remuneration committee.

Ms Martin then made a television appearance where she said she was deeply disappointed to have been “misinformed”.

Ms Ní Raghallaigh resigned from her position as chair of the RTÉ board hours later.

At a press conference on Friday, the minister reiterated that she had not been told about the remuneration committee’s new duties in approving exit fees prior to Mr Collins’ exit.

Asked if she should have queried whether the board had a role in signing off on the package at the time of his departure, she said: “I can only go with the information that I am supplied with.”

Asked if she was blameless in the situation, Ms Martin said: “I am doing by best to manage a very difficult situation.”

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