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RTÉ Roundup: Kevin Bakhurst, Adrian Lynch, and Richard Collins among RTÉ staff questioned by PAC
13 Jul 2023 : Luke Shanahan
RTÉ DG Kevin Bakhurst, Interim Deputy DG Adrian Lynch, CFO Richard Collins
Director-General Kevin Bakhurst, Interim Deputy Director General Adrian Lynch, RTE CFO Richard Collins, as well as other members of RTÉ appeared before the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) in the House of the Oireachtas today, from 9:30am to 2pm.

Interim Deputy Director General Adrian Lynch disputes statements of Ryan Tubridy and agent Noel Kelly

The questioning of RTÉ staff present in the Oireachtas today by the PAC is part of the ongoing investigation of RTÉ. Lynch began by disputing some of Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly’s claims from earlier this week:

Firstly, in reference to an email sent by the former CFO of RTÉ to NK Management in Fruary 2020, Lynch says “RTÉ does not accept that a contractual commitment was given to underwrite the commercial agreement in this email.”

“Secondly, regarding the proposal to underwrite Mr Tubridy’s payments: RTÉ again states that the request was known within RTÉ, however, the commitment to do so was not widely known. RTÉ's position is that, until the verbal commitment given by the former Director General during the call on 7 May 2020, it had not agreed to underwrite the €75,000 payment per contract year.”

According to Lynch there was "a verbal agreement on May 7 2020 between [agent] Noel Kelly and [former director general] Dee Forbes" in regards to Tubridy’s payment, which contradicts Kelly’s statement two days prior that he and Forbes had never had unaccompanied meetings.

Lynch claimed to have found a record of a Teams call on Monday 25th April 2022 in which the sole attendees were Noel Kelly and Dee Forbes.

He continued: "In that situation, Mr Kelly then sent to Ms Forbes on April 25 an email to say ‘Hi Dee. I hope you are well. It was good to catch up today. If you could please get Ger, Geraldine O'Leary, to send me on the invoicing details’".

Lynch also claimed that without the commercial Renault agreement, Tubridy would not have signed his contract:

“Thirdly, in relation to some of the commentary made here on Tuesday last, RTÉ must clarify that the proposal to underwrite these payments was central to the contractual negotiations between RTÉ and Mr Tubridy. We believe that the substantive contract would not have been signed without the additional commercial agreement, or the underwriting.”

“Moreover, we contend that the payments of €75,000 for year two and three of the commercial contract were pursued by NK Management, despite it knowing that the Renault contract was no longer in place.”

RTÉ Director-General Kevin Bakhurst confirms Tubridy is not currently being paid, does not confirm or deny Tubridy’s return to RTÉ

When asked if Tubridy was being paid, RTÉ DG Bakhurst told the Public Accounts Committee: "As of this week, no”.

Backhurst continued that "the latest invoice came in this week, and my advice is we need to decide exactly what we are paying him”. He said he “will have to continue discussions" with agent Noel Kelly about Ryan Tubridy's pay.

"We have not settled on exactly what he should be paid at the moment, but we will be paying him the appropriate amount."

Bakhurst was also asked about Tubridy’s return to RTÉ. Fianna Fáil TD Paul McAuliffe asked Bakhurst whether he intends to bring Ryan Tubridy back to RTÉ, to which the DG responded: "I don't want to rush into a decision on this. I want to make it in due time. I want to be fair to Ryan. It's clearly critical for him"

"But I need to talk to some key members of radio staff, and my colleagues on the leadership team, and consider what is the right thing for RTÉ, and then have a conversation with Mr Tubridy. But I don't want to leave it too long"

In reference to Tubridy’s statement that he will return the €150k payment in the event that he does not host the six roadshow appearances outstanding on the Renault deal, Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon asked Bakhurst if the broadcaster will look to recoup that payment.

According to Bakhurst, on a legal basis, it might not be available to recuperate.

“Should Mr Kelly and Mr Tubridy decide to pay it back because it’s the right thing to do then we would welcome that,” Bakhurt said.

He continued: “It’s money from the licence fee payer. RTÉ made a mistake. Mr Tubridy has done nothing wrong in taking that money.”

Dillon then asks if he will seek to recuperate the payment anyway, to which Bakhurst replies: “Yes”.

RTÉ to examine deals with Noel Kelly’s other clients

Committee Chair Brian Stanley asked Bakhurst if RTÉ will investigate Noel Kelly's other clients, and examine their contracts and invoices: "Can they now be looked at, and report back to the committee on it?"

Bakhurst replied: "Yes, I would like to satisfy myself, we will certainly do that".

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