RTÉ asks former senior executives to waive confidentiality over exit deals

Rté Asks Former Senior Executives To Waive Confidentiality Over Exit Deals
RTÉ said it has written to former members of the executive, who departed since 2016, to waive confidentiality regarding exit packages they received. Photo: PA Images
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Muireann Duffy

Updated: 12.45pm. Additional reporting by Press Association.

RTÉ would be exposed to "avoidable legal challenge" if it were to publish employee contract details in the interest of transparency, the broadcaster was warned.


The legal advice received by the national broadcaster regarding controversial exit packages for former senior executives was published on Thursday morning, as well as confirmation that it has written to former senior executives asking them to waive confidentiality agreements surrounding the details of their exit deals.

Controversy again engulfed the broadcaster as it appeared before the Oireachtas Media Committee last week after it emerged that RTÉ's former chief financial officer Breda O'Keeffe had received an exit payment of €450,000.

TDs and Senators sought further details on any other such deals made with those who had left the national broadcaster. However, RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst explained there were confidentiality arrangements in place concerning some of the agreements.

The lack of disclose surrounding the details of the deals prompted further outcry, with politicians claiming the matter again highlighted the lack of transparency at RTÉ, with the chair of the Oireachtas Media Committee, Fianna Fáil TD Niamh Smyth, stating confidentiality clauses for exit deals in the public sector were "wholly inappropriate".


On Thursday morning, a statement from RTÉ confirmed it has published updated legal advice from the broadcaster's external legal advisors regarding the exit deals, as well as legal advice it previously received on the matter.


Among the legal advice published by RTÉ is a letter which it received from law firm Arthur Cox, which stated both employees and former employees have a legal right that their personal data relating to their employment is not made publicly available.

"If such information is published, we remain of the view that this would contravene employees' contractual and statutory rights, thereby exposing RTÉ to avoidable legal challenge," the letter dated February 21st read.

A separate letter on the same date, with the subject line 'certain arrangements entered into with former employees', states the deals agreed "represented a better commercial outcome" for RTÉ than alternatives.


"We can confirm that these arrangements were carefully considered, weighing up legal risk along with the cost, time and uncertainty surrounding alternative options.

"In our view, the terms ultimately agreed represented a better commercial outcome for RTÉ than the alternative options available combined with the attendant risks associated with the same and fell within parameters of similar arrangements we have seen in both the private and semi-state sectors."

RTÉ director general Kevin Bakhurst (centre) with chair of the RTÉ board Siún Ní Raghallaigh, © PA Wire/PA Images

In a third letter dated October 5th, the firm acknowledges RTÉ's aim for transparency, but said it is "in receipt of a number of objections and complaints expressing concerns about the potential disclosure of personal data without the consent of the employees concerned".


"If such information is published in a manner where employees could be identified, then we are of the view that this would create significant employee and industrial relations issues for RTÉ, as well as potentially resulting in legal exposure depending on the nature of the publication.

"The potential for such issues is borne out by correspondence RTÉ has received to date from concerned current and former employees."

Arthur Cox also said that it is not aware of any contractual provision that contemplates the general publication of employee's information, and said the release of sensitive data could "undermine the trust and confidence" required in employer-employee relationships.

Mr Bakhurst previously said he had sought updated advice on "how far we can push transparency" on exit packages, given obligations regarding data protection, employment law and the individual rights of RTÉ employees.


He added that it would undermine future trust in the organisation if it decided to "walk away" from mediated legal agreements.

Commenting on the calls to make details of the exit packages public despite the legal concerns of doing so, Mr Bakhurst said: "I’ve never in my whole career been asked to break the law, and I don’t think it’s a great idea to start doing that now."

Minister for the Media Catherine Martin, © PA Wire/PA Images
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In a statement announcing the publication of the updated legal advice, RTÉ also said it has confirmed to Minister for the Media Catherine Martin that it has written to former members of RTÉ's executive, who left the organisation since 2016, asking them to waive confidentiality concerning deals they received.

The broadcaster added that it also told the Minister it has sought external advice regarding caps on future exit deals, including severance pay and termination agreements, as well as "options regarding confidentiality".

"RTÉ has also undertaken to look at bringing forward publication of the IAS 24 Related Party Disclosures figures, normally published each year in its annual report.

"These figures relate to transactions with key management personnel (i.e. those persons having authority and responsibility for planning, directing and controlling the activities of the company). These figures will include an aggregate statement of termination benefits paid in 2023," RTÉ's statement added.

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