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home free Gardai say there will be 'no prosecution' over controversial RTE leaving party

Several RTE stars apologised at the time for any upset they may have caused as the country dealt with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic


The event at RTÉ during Level 5 restrictions

The event at RTÉ during Level 5 restrictions

The event at RTÉ during Level 5 restrictions

Gardai have said there will be no prosecution over the controversial RTE leaving party during which top stars were pictured together during  Level 5 restrictions. 

The national broadcaster was left reeling after images emerged of some of its top talent posing for photographs with a retiring staff member at a gathering in Montrose in November 2020.

The images caused public outrage as the nation remained under tight restrictions with people being asked to stay at home.

While it was not illegal to attend non-essential events at that time, it was to organise one.

RTE later initiated an internal investigation which found five breaches of Covid-19 guidelines, including a failure to adhere to the two-metre social distancing guideline and a failure to wear masks.

However, gardai have said an investigation file was sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions “who has since directed no prosecution in the matter”.

“An Garda Síochána will not be making any further comment,” the force added.

Several RTE stars apologised at the time for any upset they may have caused as the country dealt with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Broadcasters Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh, Eileen Dunne and Miriam O’Callaghan all apologised for errors in judgment after posed photos emerged from the event showing social distancing breaches.

At the beginning of his News at One programme, Dobson accepted responsibility for his actions and apologised to the nation.

"I'm sorry to everyone who has sacrificed so much in recent months and lost loved ones. To those that are living with the after effects of the infection and to those who have lost their jobs, livelihoods or businesses, and to those who have been isolated from family and friends.

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"On this programme we have vigorously debated Covid-19 measures, but what is not disputed is that each of us should make every effort to observe the restrictions in place.

"I'd be very concerned if any actions of mine undermined that vital lifesaving public health advice," Mr Dobson said.

Dr Gabriel Scally, President of Epidemiology & Public Health at the Royal Society of Medicine said the photos left him “speechless.”

Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne at the time, Dr Scally said the photos were astounding.

“People with their arms around each other. Amazingly, photos of people close together, standing on a mat which says keep at least two meters distance.

"They’re standing on the mat which says to keep their distance of two metres apart and there they are with their arms around each other’s shoulders.

“I understand the view will be it was a momentary lapse of caution but... I think it is astounding,” Dr Scally said.

In a note to newsroom staff 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”.

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