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Tearful RTE newsreader Eileen Dunne apologises live on-air

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Eileen Dunne

Eileen Dunne

Eileen Dunne

TV newsreader Eileen Dunne tonight fought back tears as she made a dramatic apology live on air for attending a farewell event for a colleague without masks or proper social distancing.

Eileen was one of several RTE personalities, including Miriam O’Callaghan, Bryan Dobson and Darragh McCullough, who were photographed shoulder to shoulder with former colleague Phil Collins at a going away function for her.

“So hands ups, as you seen I too was photographed at the farewell for Phil,” an emotional Eileen said on tonight’s Nine O’Clock News, as she raised her hands in the air after a report on the controversy was screened.

“ I would like to take this opportunity to apologise for my lack of judgement, part to RTE colleagues who have worked so hard to keep this campus Covid free for the past eight months. I have let you all down and I’ve sorry.”

The photographs of the event in RTE were widely criticised with Taoiseach Michael Martin saying the images were “very disappointing” and “not helpful”.

Dr Gabriel Scally, President of the of RSM Medicine in London, said he was “speechless” at the pictures, and it was “quite remarkable, people standing with their arms around each other”.

The event took place on November 15 when Ireland was in still in the midst of Level 5 of the Living with Covid restrictions.

During Level 5, all social gatherings are prohibited.

In a statement, the broadcaster says social distancing was observed throughout and the brief contacts between people, while the photos were being taken, were "well-intentioned" and "unnecessarily risky."

RTÉ News Managing Director Jon Williams, who was also pictured with Phil, also apologised for their part.

In a statement issued by the broadcaster, 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."

Prime Time presenter Miriam O'Callaghan has also apologised for an "error of judgement on my part."

The Six One News' David McCullough and Radio 1's Brian Dobson have also issued statements where they both apologised for a 'serious lapse of judgement'.

Speaking on the RTE's News At One, Brian said: "I would like to take a moment to comment on that report in today's The Sun newspaper about a gathering at RTE last week at which I was photographed beside a colleague who was retiring.

"We are advised strongly under Covid-19 guidelines not to be in such close proximity to another person outside our immediate family bubble.

"I want to once again to unreservedly apologise for my lapse in judgement in posing for the photograph. The responsibility is mine alone.

"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.

"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."

Other who attended the function included political correspondent Paul Cunningham, presenter Blathnaid Ni Chofaigh,

RTÉ said it should not have happened and has reminded staff of their obligations to follow public health advice.

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