Monday 10 July 2023

Bread and circus

tl;dr because you're not going to read to the bottom of the saga below. While TDs and Senators were in PAC committee scrabbling for airtime to vilify the enablers of Ryan "National Treasure" Tubridy's mammoth salary + kickbacks the government was hoping to slip by the inattention of Dáil Éireann to sign up Ireland's participation in four European Defence Agency Projects. Catherine Connolly TD shames them [in an empty house] for dumping neutrality in favour of military-industrial complex and dead squaddies.

The tide of Coronarama is ebbing but there is still a war on and the Brits have tanked their economy in their own peculiar xenophobic chicket-match. All these events have made it difficult for ordinary working folk in Ireland. The price of fancy ready-meals from Marks&Spenser are still about the same price as The Before Times [because it's all hype and packing] but Aldidl Valu Pasta Twirls have doubled in cost and so has rent. I don't know if UK is still the second least equal country in the OECD but it must be close. And Post-Tiger Ireland it's similar. If you are a financial trader, Google wonk, academic Professor, senior civil servant or C-suite at RTE, life is sweet on a six-figure salary. [Senior] Assistant Librarians, A&E nurses, National School teachers . . . not so much. 

Did someone mention RTE? In the middle of June, RTE's Director General DG Dee Forbes was forced to fall on her sword by the Board of RTE chaired by Siún Ní Raghallaigh. The reason being the exposure of a WTFFFF false accounting financial finagle to funnel funds off-the-books to RTE's Top Talent [technical term in the "industry"] Ryan Tubridy. That >!aHa!< explained why he had retired [with immediate effect] from presenting RTE's flagship Late Late Show back in March 2023 . . . He had been retired. 

The resignation [with immediate effect] of DG Dee Forbes in June made her a private citizen and so beyond the reach of scrutiny by the Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts PAC, Chaired by Brian Stanley TD (SF). If PAC sounds like Robespierre's Committee of Public Safety Comité de salut public it's because both quangos have the ability to be as offensive as they like in rooting out malfeasance among those within their power. And that is anyone on the public payroll: me for 30 years working in Institutions like TCD, UCD, SVUH, and ITC. 

So last week I plunged down a rabbit hole of televised sittings of the PAC all fighty in the red corner and a motley crew of senior management from RTE chastened, not to say cowed, in the blue corner.

Apart from Richard CFO Collins, the hardest slaps were reserved for Geraldine O'Leary, Director of Commercial. The two of them were having to suck up a lot of abuse that couldn't be directed at the absent DG Dee Forbes or Jim Jennings Director of Content.

It is of no interest to anyone that Rory Coveney, Director of Strategy is the brother of Simon Coveney TD, Deputy Leader of Fine Gael and once-upon-a-minister of many portfilios and currently Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. Yesterday afternoon Rory Coveney resigned from RTE. Two of Ryan Tubridy's maternal uncles were TDs and/or MEPs. For a Republic we support a lot of Barons Shoguns politico-economic-media dynasties.

Former Minister and Enniscorthy neighbour Ivan Yates currently works for Newstalk FM and invited some key comment from people in the know about the toxic discharge from RTE. For Today FM, Marc Coleman, economist and former broadcaster, uttered a take down of nepotism, cronyism, and mighty salaries in RTE and across the Irish polity. We even have a sitting judge taking time out for a swipe at RTE exec pay before settling down to fine poor folks for not paying the licence fee.

When the dust settled, if anyone cared to listen [i.e. excluding all the harpies on the PAC] Richard Collins explained why he might have let three sketchy invoices go through on the DG's nod. It was early 2020: he was not a wet week at the CFO helm of a €400 million semi-state company employing nearly 2,000 people; the pandemic was being locked-down and he was working round the clock to stop the whole enterprise flushing down the t'ilet: negotiating with banks, the government and employees to keep the shows on tracks. Yes, including pay cuts for all including the C-suite - everyone sucked it up [it seems] except Top Talent Tubridy through his agent.

Geraldine O'Leary, Director of Commercial may have been bringing her husband along as her +1 to Cup Finals with potential advertisers; she may have raised a tuthree obviously false invoices for €150,000; she may have added 35% to all these sketch payments because they went through a barter account . . . and so on. BUT she had raised more than €1 billion in revenue for her company over the previous 10 years at a cost of rather less than €1 million which was and is a remarkable return on investment for any sector of the commercial world. "But sure that's yer job, Ms O'Leary" was Imelda Munster's sour-puss comment. You and me, dear reader, cannot know but may well believe that O'Leary and Collins and the rest of them have been subjected to a shit-storm of personal abuse on 'social' media. 

Discourse in this sorry world is not about proportionate response, let alone math-nerd analysis. A billion is not twice as big as a million it is 1,000x larger: at scale even €1,000,000 becomes an insignificant speck. Michael O'Leary will have a different take: by minding the pennies at Ryanair he turned a loss-making hobby airline into a global force. Everyone listening to the RTE take-down over RTE! from their negative equitied maisonette after a dinner of chips is entitled to be outraged. TDs on salary? not so much.

But today Monday 10 July 2023, the new RTE DG Kevin Bakhurst will occupy his office in the Montrose for the first time, having been appointed last week. His brief is to restore trust among the troika of the broadcaster, the public [rights vindicated by their elected reps] and a handful of billionaire oligarchs speaking through their employees aka the rest of media. Sorry for CFO Richard Collins who prioritized Big numbers over small but his position is untenable. Less sorry for Geraldine "Commercial" O'Leary because she was due to retire anyway at the end of August; but she'll have to go too. Chair of the Board, Siún Ní Raghallaigh, by her own account "a tireless and incredibly creative leader" who accepted DG Dee's resignation with unseemly own-self-arse-covering haste? Chop Chop too. This is all based on how shifty and evasive they seemed under intense scrutiny. DG Bakhurst has to take some of that on board or it's pitchforks for him too. Adrian Lynch, recently appointed "Interim Deputy DG for RTE" looks like he might survive.

Moya Doherty, the previous RTE Board Chair, millionaire, and previous-previous co-founder of Riverdance aka arm-bands and high-stepping neo-fasc to music? She was super smug and condescending to those who actually had to fight their corner at the tribunal but we can't sack her. As Michael Rosen and Richard Osman recently agreed, there are thousands of talented people in Ireland who never got/get the chance to be "a tireless and incredibly creative leader" because they neglected to go to the right school, or play the right kind of rugger.

Tomorrow Tuesday bouncy ebullient man-child Ryan "Tubs" Tubridy [R,R] and his eminence gris agent Noel Kelly [R,L check out the shades: y'couldn't make this up] are coming in to face the music of abuse from the PAC: expect contrition, but no offers of a refund from the €500,000+ salary. 

"We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the [British] public in one of its periodical fits of morality." Macaulay 1843

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