Ryan Tubridy is trying to bridge a gap with RTÉ on his return to radio after an investigation found the presenter and his agent Noel Kelly were not involved in misleading statements claiming he had a salary of between 2017 and 2019 received less than 500,000 euros.
After two months of furor at the national broadcaster, the latest Grant Thornton report on Mr Tubridy's salaries was heavily critical of RTÉ's “several failings” as its stated earnings were revised in a statement on top presenters' salaries in 2021 a total of 120,000 euros were cut.
The auditors proposed a “very plausible explanation” for the misleading claims, claiming that Tubridy received less than €500,000 when he received more.
RTÉ Chair Siún Ní Raghallaigh said the report “paints a picture of poor internal communication and weak processes”, adding that the board will discuss the findings with auditor Deloitte, whose role in the investigation has been the focus.
Media Minister Catherine Martin expressed concern at “deeply concerning” failures in leadership and the “failure of proper internal controls and processes within RTÉ”.
As Mr Tubridy's talks with RTÉ enter their most critical phase, he has signaled his willingness to accept a salary of “significantly less” than €200,000 to host his hour-long weekday radio show, according to an informed source. His radio salary before he left in June is estimated at around 220,000 euros.
He has also signaled he will return the €150,000 he received under a failed deal with late-late show sponsor Renault for in-person appearances. RTÉ eventually paid the money through a British “swap account” when the carmaker stopped the deal.
The affair has soured ties between Mr Tubridy and RTÉ, which is requesting extra funding from the government in the October budget after losing millions of euros in royalties revenue since the controversy erupted in June.
Despite major concerns about the fallout from the secret Renault deal, Grant Thornton's new report is believed to have bolstered Mr Tubridy's return efforts by absolving him of responsibility for the 2017-2019 statements.
Such findings contrast with previous statements by RTÉ's board that suggested it had received hidden payments during the period.
There was no apology from Mr Tubridy on Wednesday as RTÉ's board issued an opinion on the Grant Thornton paper.
Nonetheless, the Board noted the auditors' findings on the Moderator and Mr Kelly's company: “The report makes clear that neither Mr Tubridy nor NK Management were involved in the adjustments for the 2017-2019 period.”
Such insights are seen by Mr Tubridy and certain RTÉ figures as opening the door to the resumption of his radio show. In a statement, Mr Tubridy said: “I am committed to restoring the confidence of my colleagues and listeners and I hope that a fair assessment of the findings of today's report will be helpful in that regard.”
However, reservations about his likely return have been expressed at a very high level within RTÉ. Some fear efforts to resolve a major crisis would be hampered when the person most closely linked to the debacle is back on the air.
In another sign of ongoing tension, RTÉ urged Mr Tubridy to clarify the claim in his statement that his “actual earnings from RTÉ in 2020 and 2021 match what was originally published as my earnings for those years”.
This sparked irritation at RTÉ, as the company has already adjusted the money Mr Tubridy received at the time in light of swap account payments related to the Renault deal. “Regarding the comments made by Ryan Tubridy in his statement today, RTÉ is currently seeking clarification on their meaning,” the national broadcaster said.
Mr Tubridy's statement is understood to be based on data provided by Grant Thornton on the salary he received through RTÉ's payroll system.