A story of privilege, hubris and rejection — RTÉ and the Ryan Tubridy affair

A story of privilege, hubris and rejection — RTÉ and the Ryan Tubridy affair

RYAN Tubridy’s fall from RTÉ grace has been one of those peculiarly Irish moments. In my time living here it has only been matched by Saipan and Bertie Ahern at the Mahon Tribunal. As with those two it has been both trivial and serious, laughable and excruciating. As with Roy Keane and Bertie Ahern, Ryan Tubridy’s fall has been sudden and alarmingly public. When we began 2023 Tubridy was the host of The Late, Late Show and Radio One’s flagship nine o’clock morning programme. He is now neither. When we began 2023 Ryan Tubridy was RTÉ’s golden child, the face of RTÉ in a way no one had been since Gay Byrne. He now doesn’t work there anymore.

Appropriately enough, for someone making his living talking, Tubridy’s final fall from grace was as a result of his own words. Just as it seemed RTÉ was about to bring him back Tubridy insisted on having the last word in order to ensure he was absolved of any blame. In response RTÉ’s new boss, Kevin Bakhurst, showed Tubridy the door.

Now, I’ve written before about how I didn’t think this was about Ryan Tubridy but more about an entire culture of greed of which Tubridy was a mere representative. Of course, in his appearance before the Oireachtas, Tubridy very much insisted on making it about Ryan Tubridy and in doing so sowed the definitive seeds of his downfall.

Tubridy is a child of privilege and this distorted privilege is a social negative. What Tubridy displayed in front of TDs, though, was that he is also an adult of privilege and that becomes a matter of individual judgement.

Such was his sense of his own image that Bakhurst reported that Tubridy was shocked to hear that some in RTÉ were opposed to his return such was their sense of betrayal. That a man who was earning far more than his colleagues, and not only that but one who allowed himself to be portrayed as earning far less, should be so shocked says a lot about Ryan Tubridy’s cocooned privilege. To lead the ‘we are all in this together’ chorus when wages were being cut only for those around you to find out you weren’t in it with them is one thing.

But to be shocked that they’d then resent that is shocking itself.

Bakhurst also stated that he was friendly with Tubridy on an individual level which must have further shocked Tubridy on being shown the door. Tubridy and Bakhurst is like meeting like. Tubridy, who went to the exclusive fee paying Blackrock College in Dublin, and Bakhurst, who went to the exclusive fee paying Haberdasher’s Boy’s School in Hertfordshire, are from the same place. They get each other. Some of us might have thought why the British have to come in to clean up the mess but Ryan and Kevin would have instinctively recognised each other. Indeed, as I’m writing this they have been joined by RTÉ personality John Brennan, who has described Tubridy’s fall from grace as a ‘public execution’. Brennan went to the exclusive fee paying Catholic University School in Dublin.

Now I wonder how many elderly listeners in Britain who can no longer get RTÉ on the radio because RTÉ wanted to save €250,000 per year went to schools like that? €250,000, which was Tubridy’s wages for about six months, one man’s wages for half a year, versus thousands of people listening abroad. How many of those people, in Birmingham, London, Manchester or Glasgow, do you think went to Blackrock College, or the Catholic University School, or Haberdasher’s Boy’s School in England?

I don’t have the exact numbers, obviously, but I’m wondering if I said zero would I be too far from the mark?

Kevin Bakhurst has been getting plaudits for how he has dealt with the Tubridy scandal but the much, much bigger scandal is RTÉ’s abandonment of its role as a public service for the Irish public outside of Ireland. And I can’t help wondering just how much Kevin Bakhurst of Haberdasher’s Boy’s School and Cambridge University understands about the reality of Irish emigration?

I’m wondering if his days in Haberdasher’s or Cambridge ever introduced him to Irish emigrant life on the streets of Britain?

Because he won’t have learnt about it from Ryan Tubridy or John Brennan. And we are back where we began because the Tubridy scandal isn’t really about Ryan Tubridy and it never was. But can RTÉ, in response, be once again, about the Irish public and about that public over there as well as here?