Some of RTÉ’s top stars, including Miriam O’Callaghan and Bryan Dobson, have apologised after it emerged they had briefly posed for photos at a leaving party for a colleague without any masks and without adhering to social distance guidelines.
News at One’s Bryan Dobson, Prime Time’s Miriam O’Callaghan, and Six One’s David McCullagh were among those who attended an impromptu gathering for RTÉ staff member Phil Collins who was leaving the broadcaster.
The national broadcaster last night confirmed a “small number” of officials and on-screen talent attended a low-key party held on the Montrose site earlier this month.
All three presenters have apologised and an RTÉ spokesperson said that both ‘RTÉ and those involved regret this occurred.”
Political Correspondent Paul Cunningham, Nine O’Clock News presenter Eileen Dunne, RTÉ News Managing Director Jon Williams, RTÉ News Deputy MD Hilary McGouran and presenter Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh were also pictured at the “short impromptu gathering”.
In a note to newsroom staff today, RTÉ’s Head of News Jon Williams apologised to colleagues for the embarrassment caused by the photographs.
“It was only for a moment and it was done with the best of intentions – as indeed were the actions of other colleagues. But it was wrong. And I’m very sorry,” he wrote.
The internal mail, seen by Independent.ie, described the gathering as an “impromptu farewell for a colleague who was retiring after 40 years”.
“A small number of us who were in work on the day gathered to say goodbye. While social distancing was observed overall and it was in compliance with RTÉ’s site protocols, afterwards, some of us posed briefly for a photo with our retiring colleague.”
Mr Williams said he was “particularly sorry that, after so many people have worked so hard across News and Current Affairs – and throughout RTÉ – during the pandemic, we’re making the news for the wrong reasons”.
In a statement on the matter, RTÉ said: “A small number of RTÉ personnel working on site recently attended a short impromptu gathering in a public area and in the place of work of a long-serving colleague to say farewell on her last day.”
The statement goes on to admit that the “brief, casual contacts” were “unnecessarily risky” and “should not have happened.”
“While social distancing was observed overall and in compliance with RTÉ’s site protocols, as photos in the press today show, a number of those present briefly posed for a photo with their departing colleague, before returning to work.
“These contacts were not close contacts as defined by HSPC guidelines. They were brief casual contacts which, while well intentioned, were unnecessarily risky and should not have happened,” the statement read.
RTÉ say they and those involved “regret” that the incident occurred and have reminded all staff of their obligations to keep both themselves and the site safe.
“RTÉ takes public health advice with the utmost seriousness and has implemented detailed workplace protocols” which have been in place since the beginning of the pandemic.
“These have been essential in keeping staff and visitors/programme guests safe whilst on site. Because of the measures taken by RTÉ, no cases of Covid-19 have so far been transmitted on campus.”
Health experts urged those in the public eye to set a “good example”.
On Morning Ireland today presenter Mary Wilson said the RTÉ incident was “a good example” of the complacency Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan is trying to make the public aware of.
HSE boss Paul Reid said he always tries “to avoid demonizing people” but added that he knows of a separate example where eight people attended a meeting in recent days without masks and all eight later tested positive for Covid-19.
Mr Reid urged people to continue doing the basics such as practising social distancing and wearing face masks as he pointed out while the country has made “good progress” in the last four weeks, “there is still some way to go”.
Mr Reid said it was “imperative” rates of transmission of the virus are lowered before the country leaves Level 5 restrictions in December.
Source: Irish News