Confidence in RTÉ board shaken: Rabbitte

The RTÉ board is in the firing line after Pat Rabbitte admitted his confidence in it was “shaken”.

The communications minister, who has responsibility for the national broadcaster, has demanded a meeting of the 13-member board at 8am on Tuesday to discuss the fallout from the report.

“I want an opportunity to study that report over the weekend and to discuss that report and its contents with the board, because ultimately the board is charged with the governance of RTÉ, and the governance, as well, failed on this occasion,” he said.

Asked if he was reserving his position on the board, Mr Rabbitte replied: “My confidence has been shaken, I have to say, but I have to hear what they have to say, because it’s fair to say they scarcely feature at all in the report.”

Up to yesterday, the pressure had largely focused on the editorial and production teams responsible for the programme, with RTÉ’s managing director of news, Ed Mulhall, taking early retirement, while other staff were reassigned or taken off air pending the report.

However, Mr Rabbitte’s comments raise the possibility of board departures.

“I intend to leave the board and the chairman under no misapprehension about the huge challenge that now confronts them in terms of restoring the trust that was the link with the Irish people.”

Mr Rabbitte was speaking in an interview on RTÉ News. He said the report had exposed the Mission to Prey programme as a “shoddy, unprofessional, cavalier, damaging piece of work”.

As a result, RTÉ faced a “fundamental challenge” to restore its reputation. “It is quite disturbing that a man’s character could have been traduced in such a cavalier fashion.”

It was “beyond belief that a programme that had won such a high reputation for its investigative journalism should put together a piece of work based on, frankly, no more than uncorroborated gossip... They bought a line — hook, line and sinker,” he said.

Mr Rabbitte acknowledged RTÉ had already implemented a “commendable raft of changes” in the wake of the programme, and appeared to absolve RTÉ director general Noel Curran, who sits on the board.

But he said he would not “prejudge the situation” in terms of the board, which is chaired by prominent PR consultant Tom Savage.

The other board members are Patricia Quinn, CEO of Irish Nonprofits Knowledge Exchange; Karlin Lillington, technology correspondent of the Irish Times; Alan Gilsenan, filmmaker; Fergus Armstrong, former chairman of McCann Fitzgerald solicitors; Sean O’Sullivan, MD of Seabrook Research; Orlaith Carmody, journalist and communications consultant; Aileen O’Meara, journalist; Eunice O’Raw, barrister; Stuart Switzer, MD of Coco Television; Joe Little, RTÉ religious and social affairs correspondent; and Adrian Moynes, secretary to the board.

Mr Savage commented on behalf of the board last night by pointing to the reforms made since the programme.

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