Mayo TD on the frontline in RTE/Tubridy hearing

AS RTE presenter and broadcaster Ryan Tubridy voluntarily attended as a witness at the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee from 11am-2pm on Tuesday July 11 last, and subsequently as a witness at the Joint Committee of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media meeting from 3pm-6pm, a Mayo TD was also thrown into the spotlight.

Mayo Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon was one of the committee members to question the RTE presenter and his agent Noel Kelly at both hearings as part of two enquiries ordered by Media Minister Catherine Martin, which sought answers around salary, expenditure and payments of taxpayers' money made to Ryan Tubridy by public service radio and television broadcaster RTE, as part of a corporate governance enquiry of the media organisation.

At both the morning and afternoon hearings televised live on Oireachtas TV, Deputy Dillon posed a series of head-on questions to both Mr Tubridy and Mr Kelly, seeking clarification around salary deals and commercial agreements parties were involved in with RTE, which receives public funding through the TV Licence Fee. Both parties maintained throughout the hearing that it was RTE and Renault that were responsible for underwriting arrangements made to pay Mr Tubridy for sums agreed, and that they were not responsible for issues arising in relation to separate invoices billed as 'Consultancy Fees', for payments to Mr Tubridy, which currently amount to a credit note of €150,000.

Telling Ryan Tubridy that in relation to his own comment that he was being made a 'poster boy' in the entire case, Deputy Dillon asked: "Do you accept responsibility that your actions have been reckless in nature in dealing with RTE on this matter; you are trying to put sole blame regarding the payments' scandal on RTE, but does it not take two to tango; does it suit you and your client to keep things ambiguous?" He also queried why Mr Tubridy had negotiated payments while the covid pandemic was underway and RTE staff were enduring severe pay cuts, to which Mr Tubridy replied that he thought the dealings were with Renault.

Regarding his agent, Noel Kelly, Deputy Dillon asked: "Did you collude in a falsehood with RTE by labelling the invoice 'consultation fees'; this was fraudulent accounting practice; the former RTE Chief Finance Officer described these as 'defrauding the tax system'; do you accept there is a lack of credibility of invoicing another company from abroad you never heard of? You are not taking any oversight here, did you not proof each step?"

Responding, Mr Kelly stated: "I think that would be on RTE's side; these invoices were as instructed by RTE what to put in them, we were just following process."

In the second hearing from 3pm to 6pm, Deputy Dillon posed questions around the 'barter system' which has been used to describe separate commercial payments paid to Ryan Tubridy, asking him would he 'not make a cash transaction through a barter system', before going on to retract a comment and this line of questioning. Mr Tubridy asked Deputy Dillon to repeat what he was asking at times, before the dialogue got lost in entanglement over paper trails on tri-partite payments between Noel Kelly, RTE and Renault.

Nonetheless, the Mayo TD was not afraid to ask the hard questions and told the high profile witnesses: "You must accept a contributory role to these undisclosed payments. You washed your hands off it," to which Mr Kelly reiterated, "It's an RTE issue."

Memorable lines of the day from Ryan Tubridy:

"I could be out of a job by Friday" - and - "When you are publicly cancelled the way I have been it has not been easy."

Brendan Griffin TD, prefacing his questions: "Probably for most people, you, Ryan Tubridy, personify RTE."

Following a long day of cross-examination by two Dail committees, in which the glasses variously came on and off as charges of false/secret/fraudulent/deceptive invoices/accounts/negotiations and misappropriation of taxpayers' money were levied and denied, it became clear that both Ryan Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly were rattled, tired and emotionally drained by the relentless questioning. Nonethless, both parties remained on point, bold and assertive, maintaining that any commercial arrangements were made with and invoiced in accordance with instructions from RTE and that there had never been any intention or knowledge to deceive - which led to committee member Ciaran Cannon TD wearily stating in the concluding minutes, that after three weeks of questioning RTE representatives and the six hours spent cross-examining the two witnesses, he felt they had not learned anything new or moved the investigation on any further.

Whatever the outcome of the hearings which continued with RTE representatives yesterday (Thursday ), one fact was clearly proven this week, which is, that Oireachtas TV is now established as a public service media broadcaster, with bumper ratings on the date of July 11, 2023, likely to go down in history.


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