Media minister must take questions in Dail on RTE crisis, says Sinn Fein

The media minister must answer questions in the Dail about the ongoing RTE crisis, Sinn Fein has demanded.

Catherine Martin’s role in handling an ever-widening scandal at the national broadcaster came into sharper focus on Thursday after she refused to express confidence in the chair of the RTE board.

The minister said she had been misinformed on two occasions about Siun Ni Raghallaigh’s involvement in approving an exit package for a former RTE executive.

RTE pay revelations
Siun Ni Raghallaigh, right, and RTE director-general Kevin Bakhurst, left, met media minister Catherine Martin last week (Niall Carson/PA)

Hours after the minister said she was disappointed with the chair, Ms Ni Raghallaigh resigned from her role as head of the RTE board.

But opposition TDs have said these latest developments have raised questions about Ms Martin’s oversight and control of the controversy at the station.

She is due to appear at the Oireachtas media committee on Tuesday but a Sinn Fein spokesman has said she must also take questions from TDs in the Dail chamber.

David Cullinane said there was a lack of accountability across the entire Government.

He said: “I think people’s faith in RTE has been rocked to its foundations because of all the financial scandals that we’ve seen over the course of the last year.

“But it has only been compounded by what people have seen over the course of the last number of days.

“There is a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency, and – in my view – there is a lack of confidence from the public in relation to how this minister and the Government have handled this issue.”

Mr Cullinane told RTE’s The Week In Politics that Ms Martin needed to “set the record straight” in front of the full Dail.

He said Sinn Fein had written to the speaker of the house Ceann Comhairle seeking a question-and-answer session with the minister.

Joint committee on health
Sinn Fein spokesman David Cullinane said there was a lack of accountability across Government (Niall Carson/PA)

The party was also seeking the abolition of the television licence in favour of direct exchequer funding and for RTE to be brought under the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

On the same programme, minister of state for roads Jack Chambers said Ms Martin was “absolutely focused on transparency and accountability”.

He added: “In the context of the polycrisis that we’ve seen in RTE over the number of months, multiple reports – internal and external – that’s made decisions around a new (funding) model more difficult for everybody involved.

“That’s why though there will be progress on that this year. There’s been a commitment given by the party leaders and the Government to that.”

Prior to the resignation of the chair of the board, two major reports into the governance and culture at RTE were due to be published before the end of the month.