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'egregious breaches' NUJ calls for review of ‘grave’ breaches of Covid-19 social distancing guidelines in RTE

Pictures emerged of some of the stations top stars disregarding social distancing rules at a retirement party.

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Miriam O'Callaghan (right) was also at the bash

Miriam O'Callaghan (right) was also at the bash

Miriam O'Callaghan (right) was also at the bash

The National Union of Journalists has called for an urgent review of what they described as “grave breaches” of Covid-19 guidelines at RTE.

Pictures have emerged of some of the national broadcaster’s top stars disregarding social distancing measures at a retirement party.

RTE has apologised for the incident, which involved news presenters including Bryan Dobson, David McCullagh and Miriam O’Callaghan.

But the NUJ has called for further action to be taken, with secretary Seamus Dooley warning the incident could undermine RTE’s ability to hold others to account.

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Prime Time presenter Miriam O’Callaghan was among those pictured by the event (Liam McBurney/PA)

Prime Time presenter Miriam O’Callaghan was among those pictured by the event (Liam McBurney/PA)

PA

Prime Time presenter Miriam O’Callaghan was among those pictured by the event (Liam McBurney/PA)

Mr Dooley said: “The apology by RTE management is welcome but this incident should not have happened.

“As a trade union representing workers in the building we believe that the Covid committee should examine all aspects of this gathering and put in place measures to ensure that such egregious breaches do not occur again.

“RTE needs to examine all aspects of its management of Covid 19.

“RTE workers have worked extremely hard since March and have held public figures to account for their actions.

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Eileen Dunne with Phil Collins

Eileen Dunne with Phil Collins

Eileen Dunne with Phil Collins

“I have been contacted by a number of members who believe this incident has the capacity to undermine that hard-earned trust and confidence.”

RTE have confirmed that a small number of on-screen stars and officials attended what they described as an “impromptu” farewell party for a colleague.

Many of them posed for pictures, without wearing masks or adhering to social distancing guidelines.

I deeply regret not thinking through the consequences of a momentary lapse of judgement. It was wrong and I'm very sorry.Jon Williams, Director of RTE News

RTE said in a statement: “A small number of RTE 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 said that while social distancing was observed at last week’s gathering, “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.

“RTE and those involved regret this occurred. Over the last few days we have reminded all staff of their obligations to keep both themselves and the site safe, particularly over the very busy few weeks we are heading into.”

Other who attended include political correspondent Paul Cunningham, presenter Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh, newsreader Eileen Dunne and managing director of RTE News Jon Williams.

Mr Williams said: “I deeply regret not thinking through the consequences of a momentary lapse of judgement. It was wrong and I’m very sorry.”

Mr Dooley said it would be wrong if “exceptional lapses of judgment” were to undermine the work of RTE.

He added: “That is why we are seeking an urgent review, so that lessons can be learned.”

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