2 March 2024 The Irish Film & Television Network

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RTÉ Round-Up: Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly questioned by PAC and Oireachtas
12 Jul 2023 : Luke Shanahan
Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly
Former Late Late host Ryan Tubridy and agent Noel Kelly were questioned for over six hours at two committees: the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) and the Oireachtas Media Committee.

Tubridy and Kelly provided 39 pages of documents to the Oireachtas hours before meeting with them. The contents of these documents included excerpts from Tubridy’s 2015 and 2020 contracts with RTE, extracts from the accounts of Tubridy’s company Tuttle Productions for relevant years, and various emails which track the negotiations for the 2020 RTE contract and the Renault contract.

Ryan Tubridy arrived at Leinster House ahead of an appearance before the Public Accounts Committee at 11am.

In his opening statement, he said: “I have come here voluntarily because I believe in the work that you are doing. I am here to assist in every way I can."

At the beginning of the day, Tubridy outlined to the PAC what he described as “seven untruths” in relation to information that RTÉ provided to the Oireachtas and in public statements in the weeks preceding his appearance before the two committees.

Firstly, he refuted the claim that  he did not take a pay cut from RTÉ in 2020.

Tubridy said: “I took a 20% pay cut from RTÉ in my 2020-2025 contract. I am obliged to do 205 Radio shows and 38 live 2-hour Late Late Shows under this contract.”

This was later disputed by Labour TD Alan Kelly, referring to the earnings in the tripartite deal with Renault and RTÉ, stating that the 20% decrease in salary was “absorbed in a different way, that is quite obvious”.

Secondly, he denied the suggestion that his decision to retire from The Late Late Show was prompted by the ongoing RTÉ ‘scandal’.

"I made my initial decision to leave The Late Late Show almost a year ago. Around this time, I mentioned it to those closest to me, my family and my agent.”

He said he told RTÉ management on 13th March and "first became aware of the Grant Thornton review in May – some two months later."

The rest of the ‘untruths’ he challenged were as follows:

  • That he was "covertly or secretly 'overpaid' by RTÉ".
  • That he "was aware that RTÉ were trying to conceal payments to me".
  • That there was a secret agreement with Renault that he tried to conceal.
  • That RTÉ's underwriting of Renault's payment obligations was a secret.
  • That he did not ask RTÉ about their under-declarations of his earnings when they released the 2017, 2018 and 2019 earnings on January 20th 2022.

In relation to not questioning under-declarations of his earnings, he said: "This is a question I did not ask at that time, and one I should have asked. I fully accept that.” 

Noel Kelly described the under-declarations as “a mess of RTÉ's own making". In regards to the Renault contract, he outlined an email sent to NK management on December 19th 2019 from former RTÉ CFO Breda O'Keeffe, which he attributes as the beginning of negotiations on the 2020 contract.

"You will see in the email that this is where the idea of a Commercial Sponsorship with a 3rd Party with an annual fee of €75,000 is first suggested,” Kelly told the PAC. “It comes from RTÉ.”

He continued: "That did not strike us as unusual as Renault was a key sponsor for RTÉ so it was understandable that they would wish to ensure that all parties were aligned."

Kelly also referred to an email from RTÉ's Commercial Director Geraldine O'Leary outlining that invoices should be sent to Astus, not RTÉ:

"That email instructed the company name to be put on the invoice – Astus, the address to be put on the invoice, the VAT reference to be included on the invoice. And instructs them not to put any person's name on it."

When Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon asked Kelly if he found it strange that there was a request not to put a person's name on the invoice, Kelly responded: "No, we were just acting under instructions".

Noel Kelly said the Renault deal was to "embellish the sponsorship" and it was not related to Ryan Tubridy's pay cut, describing it as a “separate commercial deal".

Kelly was questioned by Sinn Féin’s Imelda Munster as to why he had written "consultancy fees" on the invoices for the two €75,000 payments instead of using Ryan Tubridy’s name. Kelly responded that they were following RTÉ’s orders:

"We acted at all times on instructions from RTÉ. We trusted the process, why would we not trust the process?"

Social Democrats’ Catherine Murphy described Kelly’s repeated assertions that they were “acting under instruction from RTÉ” as the “Nuremberg defence” of just following orders. Munster said there was no consultancy work done for payments described as consultancy fees, to which Kelly agreed: "No".

Coming up to 5pm, Tubridy stated that six roadshow appearances are outstanding on the Renault deal, and if he ultimately does not host these events he will return the €150,000 he was paid by Renault. However, he is “still ready and willing” to make those appearances. 

Tubridy also made multiple allusions throughout the day that it was currently unclear if he will be able to return to his position in RTÉ, but if he did that he would welcome having his contract published annually for the sake of transparency, as opposed to what he described as the “codology” of publishing the contract every three years.

The questioning of Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly has led to new information being made public, however, the PAC and Oireachtas Media Committee are still left with many questions.

PAC Chair Brian Stanley described some of the evidence presented by Ryan Tubridy and Noel Kelly as lacking in credibility: "The evidence we heard today from Mr Tubridy but particularly the evidence from Mr Kelly, it lacked, an awful lot of it lacked credibility and simply I would have serious problems with it."

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