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Catherine Martin criticised by opposition parties over RTE crisis

The Social Democrats, the Labour Party and People Before Profit have all criticised the Media Minister.

RTE pay revelations

The Media Minister has been widely criticised by opposition parties over her handling of the latest RTE fallout.

Catherine Martin was accused of making a “serious blunder” after she went on live TV and refused to express confidence in Siun Ni Raghallaigh, the chairwoman of the RTE board.

Ms Martin is under pressure after Ms Ni Raghallaigh resigned from her position, and will face questions when she appears before the media committee on Tuesday evening.

She has also been pushed to answer TDs’ questions during a Dail session on Wednesday.

The Social Democrats, the Labour Party and People Before Profit have all criticised Ms Martin over how she managed last week’s developments.

Ms Ni Raghallaigh resigned hours after Ms Martin refused to express confidence in her as head of the RTE board during an interview on Prime Time.

The minister said she had been misinformed on two occasions about Ms Ni Raghallaigh’s involvement in approving an exit package for a former RTE executive.

Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall said the Green Party minister has handled the latest fallout “very badly”.

“It’s becoming increasingly obvious that Minister Martin made a serious blunder last Thursday by going on the Prime Time programme,” Ms Shortall said.

“That was very ill-judged in our view, and clearly she was seriously ill-informed about the background to the issue of the exit packages.

“We know now of course that the outgoing chair had notified her (media) department about the packages, the minister didn’t seem to be aware of that at all.

“We know also that officials from RTE and from the department were at the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) last October and discussed the new arrangements for approval of the exit packages.”

Ms Shortall also said it was “unfortunate” that the department’s former secretary general Katherine Licken will not attend Tuesday’s committee meeting to answer key questions about what department officials knew of the exit payments given to former executives.

“I think that’s very regrettable but there will be other officials there and we know that, not only was the secretary general informed, but that two other senior officials are also aware of this,” Ms Shortall added.

Labour leader Ivana Bacik said that this “existential crisis” is of the minister’s own making.

“Minister Martin still has to answer the question as to why she went on Prime Time last Thursday night and effectively carried out a summary dismissal of the chairperson of the state board,” Ms Bacik said.

“We want to see questions and answers in the Dail tomorrow, however, because there are so many questions, the key one remains why the minister took the peremptory action she did on Thursday night, having taken such a hands-off approach to the ongoing crisis in RTE for so long.”

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the fallout shows “a completely shambolic dysfunctional relationship” between the minister and RTE.

“It is really stomach-churning for ordinary workers to hear about these absolutely enormous golden handshakes being given to executives, and we still can’t get to the bottom of who knew what, when, who signed off on these things, who approved them,” Mr Boyd Barrett said.

“We need to remember that this is public taxpayers’ money, taxpayers who never see these kinds of enormous salaries, six-figure salaries, enormous golden handshakes.

“So it is really outrageous at this stage that the government have failed to get a handle on this situation.”

In the Dail on Tuesday, Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald and other opposition TDs called on Ms Martin to answer TDs questions in the Dail, rather than simply taking statements.

“The minister has badly the mishandled the RTE debacle and now has added to the chaos,” Ms McDonald said.

“A lack of transparency and accountability has broken public trust in RTE and it now seems that the Minister is not prepared to be fully transparent and accountable and, Ceann Comhairle, that is not an acceptable situation. So we want to press that the minister not just make a statement, but also take questions when she appears before the House.”

Mr Boyd Barrett said that People Before Profit had written to the business committee asking for “a back and forth so we can get to the bottom of the shambolic mess in RTE”.

Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe said that Ms Martin was to answer questions posed by all parties during a late-night committee appearance on Tuesday.

“Minister Catherine Martin is going to be in front of an Oireachtas committee for many hours this evening.

“She will then be in the Dail here tomorrow afternoon making statements, hearing the views of deputies and responding back at the end of that to the questions that are being put to her.

“But the appropriate place in which this matter should be dealt with is in the Oireachtas committee that’s responsible for the media.

“You’ve got party representatives on that Oireachtas committee, you will have your colleagues putting questions to Minister Martin tonight. Is that how little faith you have in them?

“So she’s going in front of the committee to answer the questions that are being put to her that will be put to her by your own party colleagues.

“And that’s where those issues will be raised, and that’s where Minister Martin I know will respond back to all of them.”

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