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Dublin Live
Sandra Mallon

RTE points finger at former Director General Dee Forbes amid payments scandal

Ex RTE chief Dee Forbes was the only person who could have known that Ryan Tubridy’s salary was wrongly declared over the last five years, a bombshell report by Montrose bosses says.

The review into the secret payments to the station’s top paid broadcaster also said there was “no illegality” and claimed that the former Late Late host knew nothing of arrangements to use credit notes in relation to €75,000 a year additonal cash agreed to be paid to him via a deal with a commerical partner.

Interim RTE Deputy Director General Adrian Lynch revealed no member of the station’s Executive Board other than Ms Forbes could have known that Tubridy’s figures were wrongly declared to the Dail and the public. An independent review investigating the secret payments found that the ex Director General was the only person that could have signed off on the presenter’s contracts.

And RTE was last night accused of throwing its former director-general, Dee Forbes, ‘under a bus’ over the Ryan Tubridy payments scandal. Fine Gael senator John McGahon made the comments after the national broadcaster firmly blamed her for the controversy.

Read more: RTE payments scandal: Main points as Dee Forbes in the firing line and Ryan Tubridy 'no wrongdoing'

The national broadcaster says she was the only member of its executive board who knew the top presenter’s published salary was wrong. Also reacting last night, former RTE pundit Eamon Dunphy labelled Forbes “a patsy”.

The report was conducted by specialist forensic accountant Paul Jacobs, Partner and Head of the Forensic & Investigation Services unit at Grant Thornton. It focused on the payment of €150,000 to Mr Tubridy and an additional €80,000 in fees between 2020 and 2022.

A further €120,000 in over payments from 2017 to 2019 is the subject of further probes.

Outlining how RTE negotiates the contracts of its top 10 most highly paid on-air presenters, Mr Lynch said: “Once it has been agreed in principle by the relevant editorial lead, the process of negotiating the contracts of RTE’s top 10 most highly paid on-air presenters is conducted by the CFO, with advice from the legal department.

“Input regarding the services required, such as, programming and commitments to hours of broadcasting would typically be provided by the relevant editorial lead – the Director of Content or the Director of News and Current Affairs and the Director of Audience Channels and Marketing.

“Final approval of fees to be paid to RTE’s top 10 most highly paid on-air presenters is by the Director General. No member of the RTE executive board other than the Director General had all the necessary information in order to understand that the publicly declared figures for Ryan Tubridy could have been wrong.”

The statement also said Ms Forbes “has not had the opportunity to respond to the details set out below and may therefore challenge or disagree with our understanding and position.” The statement added that “no former employees were asked to or contributed to this statement”.

Ms Forbes has already said she bears “ultimate responsibility” as DG but that other parties were involved in contract negotiations. She has declined to appear before a Dail committee today to answer questions, citing health reasons.

The RTE review also said that there was “no illegality” and payments were made to Tubridy “pursuant to an agreed contract”. The damning report also found that Tubridy “was not aware” of a credit note “provided by RTE to the commercial partner”.

It added: “The Grant Thornton review makes no finding of wrongdoing on the part of Ryan Tubridy in relation to any payments made by RTE. The Grant Thornton review makes no finding of wrongdoing on the part of the commercial partner.”

Ms Forbes confirmed she will not attend the Oireachtas Committee on Media today due to what she says is ill health, a spokesperson said.

It comes after Ray D’Arcy broke his silence over RTE paying his colleague €345,000 more than was previously declared, saying “it’s a terrible mess”.The radio and TV host joined a host of other RTE stars in revealing his salary, saying he agreed to take a 15 per cent pay cut in 2019 when he asked to.

D’Arcy, who was paid €450,000 back in 2019, then earned fees of €305,000 in 2020 and 2021, now earns €250,000 a year. He said: “This is a terrible mess. On a human level I feel for the people involved but also share the feelings of anger and disappointment of many people around the country and in RTE.

“For the record, I haven’t got an agent. All of my salary figures to date have been reported correctly.

"When asked, I agreed to take a more than 15 per cent cut in 2019. My current salary is €250,000.”

Joe Duffy declared his salary live on air on his RTE Radio 1 show. The host revealed he gets paid €351,000.

Prime Time host Miriam O’Callaghan revealed that she is paid €263,500 a year. “I have never received additional payments from RTE that were not publicly declared,” she added.

Claire Byrne was the first to declare her salary insisting to her listeners that she was “being honest” about how much she earns. She said she previously earned €350,000 but that dropped to €280,000 after quitting Claire Byrne Live.

She also earns €25,000 extra for hosting quiz show Ireland’s Smartest this year.

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