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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
By Cillian Sherlock

Use of barter account to bring RTE clients to sporting events ‘outrageous’

PA Wire

The use of RTE’s barter account to help bring its clients to the Rugby World Cup and Champions League final in 2019 has been described as “outrageous”.

Discussions on the use of RTE’s barter account took place before the Public Accounts committee as executives sought to clarify how it was used to make two 75,000 euro payments to star presenter Ryan Tubridy which were not included in his total salary published by RTE.

RTE’s chief financial officer Richard Collins said there were transactions costing 111,000 euro to the barter account for travel and hotels to facilitate bringing clients to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

He said 10-year IRFU tickets were purchased with a cost through the barter account of 138,000 euro.

In addition, there were transactions relating to the Champions League final in 2019 totalling 26,000 euro.

The clients in question were not named before the Public Accounts committee.

RTE board chairwoman Siun Ni Raghallaigh said this was “outrageous” and should go through a procurement process; TD James O’Connor suggested there seemed to be “a Las Vegas-style culture, a Celtic Tiger culture” to how the barter account was used.

Former RTE managing director Jon Williams clarified on Twitter that although he went to the 2019 final in Madrid, he paid for his ticket and travel costs.

“I was there in a personal capacity. I bought my ticket & paid for all the travel costs myself. I received no hospitality and there was no cost to RTE,” he said.

Sinn Fein TD Imelda Munster asked commercial director Geraldine O’Leary about a U2 concert in Croke Park on May 14 2019 and a separate event at The K Club in Co Kildare in the same year.

Ms O’Leary said: “Client representation is a key part of what we do with media businesses, along with every other media owner in Ireland. So it is not unusual, in fact, it’s part of the job that we create relationships with clients and agencies who spend (money).”

When asked if her partner accompanied her to the U2 gig that she had organised, Ms O’Leary said: “My husband probably came with me, yes, as every guest had their partner… I don’t remember whether he did… but he probably did.”

When asked whether a coach was hired to take the group from a restaurant in Drumcondra to Croke Park, a roughly 15 minute walk away, she said yes.

“Very flippant with taxpayers’ money,” Ms Munster remarked.

“It’s client representation, which is part of what we do,” she said.

When asked about whether she personally attended The K Club event, she said: “I’d have to look back at that, I probably attended the dinner in the evening after the golf, but I don’t personally golf.”

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