Siun Ni Raghallaigh has resigned as chairwoman of the RTE board after Media Minister Catherine Martin failed to express confidence in her.

The sudden departure followed revelations that Ms Martin had been “misinformed” about the approval of an exit package for a former RTE executive.

The Labour Party has accused the minister of “summarily dismissing” Ms Ni Raghallaigh live on air on Thursday night.

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said that Ms Martin had not effectively dismissed the RTE chairwoman through her Prime Time interview.

She said that Ms Martin had “outlined the facts as they had transpired” and had “needed to and wanted to” speak to Ms Ni Raghallaigh on Friday.

“She did not dismiss her, in fact, she has stated very clearly the huge amount of work that Siun has done over the last number of months.”

Ms Martin said she had been given repeated assurances that the board had no role in signing off the package to former RTE chief financial officer Richard Collins.

However, it has since emerged that the remuneration committee of the board, of which Ms Ni Raghallaigh is a member, had approved of Mr Collins’ exit arrangements.

The minister had said she was seeking an urgent meeting with Ms Ni Raghallaigh on Friday over the matter.

However, hours later, Ms Ni Raghallaigh said it was “abundantly clear” her position is no longer tenable as she had lost the confidence of Ms Martin.

In her statement, she said the exit of Mr Collins was approved by the remuneration committee of the board on October 9.

RTE pay revelations
Media Minister Catherine Martin speaking at Government Buildings (Niall Carson/PA)

However, she said her misrepresentation of the process was not “intentional”.

At issue were changes to the terms of reference of the remuneration committee introduced after July last year when Kevin Bakhurst became the organisation’s director-general.

Under the new terms, all changes to executive pay and terms had to be approved by committee.

Discussing meetings involving the media minister this week, Ms Ni Raghallaigh said: “I was asked if the Board knew about the exit packages for (former strategy director) Rory Coveney and Richard Collins.

“I said that I was aware of them, but they had not come before the full board. However, I neglected to recollect that Richard Collins’ exit package did go before the renumeration committee.

“This was not an intentional misrepresentation, and I subsequently contacted the department to clarify the details and remind them that I had previously appraised them of the matter in October.”

Ms Ni Raghallaigh said Mr Bakhurst was also present in the two meetings with the minister and her officials this week, which lasted for more than three hours.

Labour senator Marie Sherlock said the incident has raised questions about Ms Martin, who she accused of being “utterly out of their depth”.

Ms Sherlock said: “Why did the minister not ask the right questions, ensure proper processes were being followed or ask for written correspondences?

“The minister has presided over a chaotic situation where, on one hand, she has warned that the bailout to RTE is conditional on future reforms which this Government will have to assess.

“Yet, on the other hand, we have learned last week and this week that she doesn’t even have basic information about high-profile exits from RTE.

“It has become clear that Siun Ni Raghallaigh’s tenure could not go on with the minister being misled.

“However the minister’s interview last night was wrong, ill thought through and is clear evidence of a minister utterly out of their depth.”

Ms McEntee said: “Minister Martin didn’t ask anybody to step aside and we have to be clear on that, she committed to doing an interview and did not renege on that. What she did was outline the facts as they had happened this week.

“I think the difficulty here is that all of us want to have confidence in RTE, we want to have confidence in those who are managing it, and we want to move forward. And unfortunately when we continue to have information coming out in the way it is on numbers of different issues, it’s very difficult for people to have confidence.

“Of course this will add to the challenges that RTE are facing now.”

In her statement shortly before 1am on Friday, Ms Ni Raghallaigh said she took up the role as RTE chairwoman in November 2022 because of her strong belief in the importance of public-service media and added that she had prioritised reforming the organisation to “secure its future”.

She said she made the decision to resign after consulting the board and director general about Ms Martin’s earlier RTE Prime Time interview on Thursday night about the matter.

She said: “I would like to thank my fellow board members and RTE’s leadership team for their hard work in recent months. I would also like to thank the staff of RTE for their dedication and commitment throughout this challenging time for the organisation.”

She added: “Serving as chair of the RTE board is a privilege which requires the confidence of the minister. It is abundantly clear that I no longer do. My resignation is a source of sadness to me, but it is unavoidable.

“There is a very urgent need for the funding model of RTE to be restored and for the transformation process to continue apace. I do not want this matter to distract from that. That must remain our unswerving collective objective.”

Mr Bakhurst said Ms Ni Raghallaigh will be “sorely missed”.

In a statement to staff, Kevin Bakhurst said he was sharing the announcement of her resignation with “deep regret”.

He said: “Siun has been an excellent chair and a great support to me throughout an incredibly challenging time for RTE.

“Without Siun’s experience, insight, guidance and optimism, beginning the process of meaningfully transforming RTE would have been a bigger challenge. Her integrity, hard work, commitment to public service and her appreciation of the important work you all do in serving audiences, despite many challenges, made her a valuable ally.

“Siun believed in RTE and its future and she will be sorely missed.

“I’d like to reassure you, our partners and our audiences that I and my interim leadership team remain committed to RTE and to continuing to drive the necessary change to secure the future of this organisation and transform it into a national public service media organisation we can all be proud of.”

RTE has come under heavy scrutiny to release details of exit packages for executives dating back to 2016.

Many of the arrangements are subject to confidentiality agreements, a practice that Ms Martin has also questioned.