Time to move from revelation to recommendation on RTÉ – Harris

Time To Move From Revelation To Recommendation On Rté – Harris
The Minister for Further and Higher Education said putting RTÉ under the control of the Comptroller and Auditor General would be sensible. Photo: PA Images
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Rebecca Black, PA

Simon Harris has indicated a new chair of RTÉ could be appointed in the week ahead.

The Minister for Further and Higher Education also described as “sensible” a proposal to put the national broadcaster back under the control of the Comptroller and Auditor General.


It comes amid continuing turmoil at RTÉ, including the resignation of board member PJ Mathews last week, shortly after board chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh quit following much-criticised comments from Minister for Media Catherine Martin.

Ms Martin refused to express confidence in Ms Ní Raghallaigh during a live television interview on Thursday night, saying she had been misinformed about the chair’s role in approving a controversial exit package for a senior RTÉ executive.

RTE pay revelations
Catherine Martin (Niall Carson/PA)


Ms Ní Raghallaigh resigned hours later, leaving the board without a chairperson at a critical time for RTÉ.

Mr Harris insisted he continued to have confidence in Ms Martin, adding he wants this month to be when “things actually start getting done”.

“For far too long, there has been a drip-drip feed of revelations instead of actually going, ‘How do we move?'” he told RTÉ’s The Week In Politics programme.

“We need to appoint a new RTÉ chair. That appointment is extremely important, and I hope that appointment can happen this week, and Government is trying to do that.


“Secondly, I think the publication of the PAC’s (Public Accounts Committee's) report is really important.



“I haven’t seen the report though I’ve read reports of it. A lot of the recommendations sound very common sense to me, and I think putting RTÉ back under the control of the Comptroller and Auditor General is a sensible thing to do.

“Minister Martin has done a very good job in relation to this situation and has the full support of everybody in Government.”

On the future funding of the broadcaster, Mr Harris insisted the Cabinet is “going to settle this question”.

Asked about a timeframe, Mr Harris said RTÉ management “haven’t exactly made it easy”.


He said the broadcaster should publish aggregate figures for exit payments in the past few years, and publish a methodology paper to restore confidence in the broadcaster.

John Bruton funeral
Simon Harris (Julien Behal/Government Information Service/PA)

“We’re absolutely determined to settle the question in relation to future funding, I want to see a decision made by summer, I think that is really, really important, but I think we all need to work together in relation to this,” he said.

“How RTÉ responds to the recommendations that will flow from the two independent reports (will) matter, how Government responds to the PAC recommendations will also matter, so this is a really important month to move beyond revelation, I think, towards recommendation and higher terrain for RTE.”

Appearing on the same programme, Sinn Féin TD Louise O’Reilly said: “I think what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks, the last couple of days in particular, from Minister Catherine Martin is a minister that is somewhat out of her depth.

“She seems singularly uncurious about matters which fall directly under her remit, which I think is disturbing.”

She added that Ms Martin “should have had the conversation with Ms Ní Raghallaigh rather than going into a studio and effectively sacking the woman”.

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