At the end of June, almost every Irish newspaper carried the front-page scandal “Tubridy paid €345k more than declared in salary.”
When the RTÉ pay scandal initially erupted, Tubridy and Kelly were only given 30’ notice before finding themselves on the spit. George Bernard Shaw said: “Put an Irishman on the spit and you can always get another Irishman to turn him.”
I’m sad to say Shaw was right; many forgot to “check facts thoroughly" and showed up to help turn a sizzling spit.
Irish at home (and abroad) were shocked by the debacle, and as shown in subsequent polls, most had an opinion on the right and the wrong of the situation.
One poll in July showed that one in two wanted to see Tubridy back and, as the Irish Mirror reported, “while the findings of the poll showed the presenter had been damaged by the controversy, just 8% believed he was mostly to blame for the debacle."
Many people I spoke with were also stunned by how suddenly one can fall out of favor, be accused and deemed guilty. During the controversy, journalists also reported Kelly’s penchant for mafia suits and commented on his short, stocky stature. Should objectification be part of “objective reporting”?
In July, Kevin Bakhurst was appointed as the new director general of RTÉ, replacing Dee Forbes. He took up his post with immediate strong-arm actions disbanding the Executive Board and replacing it with a temporary interim leadership team to run the organization.
However, his strong-arm tactics didn’t seem to be up to solving the Tubridy debate. On August 13, Extra.ie reported: “Ministers have called on new RTÉ chief Kevin Bakhurst to make a decision to 'back or sack' presenter Ryan Tubridy sooner rather than later as the cash-strapped station loses €1m a week in unpaid license fees.”
Headlines up until the new second Grant Thornton report, which cleared Tubridy and Kelly, often portrayed them in a bad light.
The wheel of fortune turned with the new report, and on August 15, Irish Times headlines stated “Tubridy pay controversy: RTÉ used incorrect figures to keep presenter’s published pay below €500,000, report suggests” and Breakingnews.ie stated, “The Report makes clear that neither Mr. Tubridy nor NK Management had any involvement in the adjustments for the period 2017 –2019."
The Chair of RTÉ, Siún Ní Raghallaigh, stated: “Regrettably this Report confirms our view of the siloed management culture that has prevailed in RTÉ and supports the decision by the Board to initiate an ongoing programme of corrective action."
Sorry seemed to be the hardest word and was translating into Tubridy getting his job back, with a starting date scheduled for September 4, on a salary of €170k - “significantly lower” than €200k.
In a statement issued on August 15, Tubridy said: “I welcome the findings of the Grant Thornton Report, published today. I also welcome the report’s findings that I did not claim €120,000 in fees which was due to me in 2020 and that I did not agree with how RTÉ proposed to account for this decision. It is also clear that my income from RTÉ in 2020 and 2021 matches what was originally published as my earnings for those years and RTÉ has not yet published its top ten earner details for 2022.
"I repeat my offer to publish the details of any future RTÉ contract.
"I am committed to re-establishing the confidence and trust of my colleagues and listeners, and I hope that any fair assessment of the findings of today’s report will help in this regard.
"Finally, I want to acknowledge the huge support I have received in recent weeks from people across the country; many cards and letters, greetings on the street and words of support from people I bumped into meant an awful lot to me and I appreciate them all very much”.
Bakhurst and RTÉ objected to the line in the statement: “It is also clear that my actual income from RTÉ in 2020 and 2021 matches what was originally published as my earnings for those years and RTÉ has not yet published its top 10 earner details for 2022.″
Bakhurst said he expected more “contrition” from Tubridy and pulled the practically finalized new RTÉ work contract. Bakhurst claimed “trust between the parties” had broken down and he hung Tubridy out to dry on August 17.
Unlike Schwarzenegger, Tubridy would not be back. Bakhurst stated, “RTÉ has no current plans for Tubridy to return to the broadcaster."
The RTÉ reality show did not have a happy ending. Hopes of tuning into Tubridy (and not a Tubridy replacement) on "The Ryan Tubridy Show" at 9 am on weekdays on RTÉ Radio One are now a thing of the past.
Are we back in 1950s Ireland, where authority cannot be questioned? RTÉ was permitted to state all kinds of inaccuracies during the past two-month turmoil, however, it seems to be a unilateral path. Bakhurst denied his decision was "petty," adding that Tubridy was “shocked and disappointed” by his decision to end talks.
Bakhurst’s message, according to the Irish Times, seems to be “that no individual personality will be allowed stand in the way of the recovery effort."
Since news of Tubridy’s imminent “exit” from RTÉ, Minister of Finance Michael McGrath said that “the Government is committed to public service broadcasting and is considering providing interim funding for RTÉ in the budget."
In a letter to the Irish Times on August 19, Dermot O’Rourke, from Lucan, Co Dublin, wrote: “It appears that Ryan Tubridy is paying the price for the wooden horse build by RTÉ to win the funding war."
I hope our national broadcaster will overcome its many challenges including the challenge of unpaid TV licence fees and that RTÉ employees will not be subjected to more austerity, pay cuts, job losses, or delocalization and that going forward it will once more be an institution where people can blossom.
Minister McGrath also pointed out that RTÉ itself “had undermined the faith of the public in the station over the last few months following the 'self-inflicted own goal' of the payments controversy." It seemed RTÉ’s self-inflicted transgressions necessitated someone facing the firing squad, with step-by-step media coverage. Making Tubridy the poster boy of the pay controversy and RTÉ’s ultimate scapegoat might backfire on a broadcaster with a “seánín” at the helm who may not have the perspective to understand that Irish people are historically prone to rallying to a martyr’s cause.
Tubridy was the most respected and listened to radio presenter in Ireland, yet, in Oscar Wilde’s words, it seems “Each man kills the thing he loves."
 In Ireland, prior to independence especially, to call someone a “seánín” means they think with an English perspective in mind and are British.
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