Paul Healy’s Week


RTE scandal

A big story breaks. It’s all over the national airwaves, and Twitter is shaking with anger, indignation and shock (nothing new there I suppose).

On foot of an audit, RTE has admitted it has misled the public for a number of years on star presenter Ryan Tubridy’s earnings. There have been secret payments, a previously undisclosed cosy deal, shady goings-on.

This is sensitive stuff for the Irish public – given the long-term disquiet over what RTE pays its ‘top people’ – that and the fact that we’ve just come through a pandemic, during which there was much forced collective belt-tightening (not to mention some condescending lecturing on the part of ‘Tubs’). It is also very much an issue of trust.

At the Roscommon People office, the first of a flurry of supposedly remorseful statements from the RTE board pings into our email inbox (they never used to call, but there you go). It’s the same for all media outlets. Ping, ping, scrambled update upon scrambled update. Even in drip-feed, the statements are pretty sensational. To quote what I consider to have been an ill-judged response by former President McAleese when Queen Elizabeth broke into as Gaeilge… wow!

We learn RTE has misled the public on Ryan Tubridy’s earnings. The RTE star was paid €345,000 more since 2017 than was publicly declared. The organisation made secret payments of €75,000 a year to him after a deal with a commercial sponsor fell through.

Why does all of this stink? Because we are entitled to expect high management standards, transparency and honesty from Ireland’s public service broadcaster (which we fund). RTE always publishes the earnings of its ten highest paid ‘stars’ – and that is information which the public must be able to trust. The public (and the Government) was unaware of the existence of secret payments. The Tubridy ‘top up’ was paid at a time when RTE made much play of having secured significant pay cuts with its top stars. Were we taken for fools?

At its heart, this story is about RTE breaching trust with the public, about unacceptable governance standards, and an alarming lack of accountability and transparency.

If Tubridy’s bulging bank account was topped up in secret, what else has been going on? What else might we say ‘wow’ to?



Cancel culture

One could talk about the RTE scandal until the cows come home; in fact, even after the cows were in safely, you could continue the debate.

Ryan Tubridy, through his agent, had to know that he was engaged in an unusual arrangement. In two key respects, Tubridy has let down the Irish public. Firstly, he chose to allow false declarations (by RTE) of his annual salary to go unchallenged. Secondly, it was disingenuous of him to allow a false narrative to exist in public about how far he had gone on the issue of a pay cut.

But I don’t approve of the cancel culture that is sweeping through every aspect of our lives. And Twitter pile-ons are horrible. Tubridy is not the prime villain here. Kicking someone when they’re down is wrong. Tubridy has questions to answer, he really needs to show humility too, but cancelling his career would be a completely disproportionate response. I’ll be returning to this subject, as events unfold.



Out, not down

With ten minutes to go today, it looked like Roscommon – rocked by Cork’s second-half showing – had left themselves with too much to do. A tame exit loomed.

To their great credit, our lads – trusting in the ‘system’ (to use that awful phrase) – dug deep. What followed was quality in a crisis. Five great points, born of courage and class. Suddenly, remarkably, Roscommon were level.

Into injury-time, and Davy Burke’s team had momentum. Nervous wrecks by now, we watched every move, willing the ball to stay in Roscommon hands, or the clock to usher in extra-time. In a blink, it was over. Cork’s day, a last-gasp winner hijacking Roscommon’s dreams. Our lads made good strides this season, and supporters are delighted with the commitment of the entire squad, and with the new management too.

It was a pity that Enda Smith saw red at the end. Enda has been at his brilliant best this season, leading Roscommon heroically, game after game. We are indebted to Boyle’s modern-day Gaelic Chieftain.



Off the front page

There is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien both sent thank you cards, flowers and champagne to the RTE board, formally thanking them for commanding all media attention in recent days. It’s just not true (to the best of my knowledge).



School’s out…

Back to the real world… and, just like that, another era ends!

Hundreds of families in County Roscommon experience what we experienced today – one of those ‘phases of life’ milestones that creep up on you. For us, two came on the same day.

Our third eldest (second youngest?) finished up in secondary school, completing her Leaving Cert with ‘Politics’. Also today, our youngest completed his primary school education.

It doesn’t seem that long since we photographed them as they stepped out our front door and into their brave new worlds. Today, the phones were out again, this time to capture the end of an era. It’s been a similar experience in many households locally.

St Coman’s Wood Primary School has been a big part of our lives for 20 years. It’s the same with the Convent of Mercy, where our three daughters have now completed their secondary school education.

We are blessed with the quality of our schools in Roscommon town and its environs. The principals, teachers and all staff in these schools have given great service to their community with their commitment to the education and wellbeing of thousands of children over the years.



Mattie strikes again

Deputy Mattie McGrath compared the RTE board to Putin today. To paraphrase the late Hugh Leonard, he’s a contender for Gobshite of the Year (McGrath).