Minister ‘has questions to answer’ after scathing Siun Ni Raghallaigh letter

Opposition parties said the Media Minister has further questions to answer after former RTE chairwoman Siun Ni Raghallaigh heavily criticised Catherine Martin.

Labour TD Aodhan O Riordain said Ms Martin’s position is “not tenable” after Ms Ni Raghallaigh outlined a number of failures in the Green minister’s version of events which ultimately led to her resignation.

Ms Ni Raghallaigh said her resignation last month was an “enforced dismissal” by the minister which was seemingly designed to “traduce” her reputation.

The former chairwoman hit out at Ms Martin in a four-page letter, saying she had no option but to resign after the minister refused to express confidence in her during a live television interview.

Siun Ni Raghallaigh resignation
Siun Ni Raghallaigh resigned as chairwoman of the RTE board last month (Brian Lawless/PA)

“It is quite clear that Siun Ni Raghallaigh is exposing what we all felt, which is that the minister has no control over the situation, has been a bystander and not somebody who is fully in control of matters,” Mr O Riordain added.

“She hasn’t been a main player in trying to resolve the situation.

“Minister Martin is now part of the problem.”

His party colleague and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) member Alan Kelly said there is a “huge credibility issue” for Ms Martin in saying she was unaware of the severance payment for RTE chief financial officer Richard Collins.

Mr Kelly, who has ministerial experience in previous government, said Ms Martin’s statements on the dispute are “full of holes”.

RTE report
Labour TD Alan Kelly said Media Minister Catherine Martin’s statements are ‘full of holes’ (Niall Carson/PA)

He said: “If the former chair informed the department in relation to Mr Collins’ exit, in my eyes that means the minister knows, that means the department knows.”

He added: “The whole issue in regards to Prime Time, the choreography of that, the manufacturing of that – for me, it is not credible either. It is also nonsense.”

Mr Kelly said it was clear from Ms Ni Raghallaigh’s statement that she only met the minister directly on a “handful” of occasions.

He said this was “inconsistent” with the minister’s own statements.

RTE pay revelations
Media Minister Catherine Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Fine Gael TD Alan Dillon said there was a seven-week period across July and August in which Ms Martin did not hold a meeting with Ms Ni Raghallaigh.

However, PAC member Marc O Cathasaigh defended the minister, his Green Party colleague.

He said there had been a “breakdown in communication” between Ms Ni Raghallaigh and the minister.

He said the minister had been given “incorrect information” by the former chairwoman: “That’s where this crisis sprang from.”

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy and Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster both called for a question-and-answer session with the minister in the Dail.

Mr O Cathasaigh said she would “act to clarify” the matter again.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the RTE “shambles” is the fault of the Government, accusing it of failing to take control of the crisis.

“They have failed to resolve any of the issues that lay at the heart of the scandal that erupted last summer in terms of excessive salaries, pay-outs and golden handshakes and proper financial governance of the state broadcaster,” Mr Boyd Barrett added.

“The comment that the minister is taking a hands-off approach confirms exactly what we’ve said – they failed to address the issue of the financing of RTE and, in fact, all the signs are that exactly the things that shouldn’t have happened in the aftermath of the RTE scandal erupting are going to happen.

“Workers are going to lose their jobs. There’ll be suppression of jobs and the quality of public service broadcasting will be degraded because the Government have failed to address the issue of the financing of RTE.”

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