A number of RTÉ personalities have apologised for not following social distancing guidelines at a gathering to mark the retirement of a County Roscommon native earlier this month.
Phil Collins, originally from Castlecoote, just outside Roscommon Town, has been responsible for day-to-day co-ordination of RTÉ’s reception team for the last 40 years, and colleagues marked her retirement with what has been described as an “impromptu” gathering earlier this month.
However, photographs circulated in national newspapers on Friday, showing a number of high-profile RTÉ presenters including Bryan Dobson, Miriam O’Callaghan, David McCullagh and Eileen Dunne posing with Mrs Collins without masks and not following social distancing guidelines.
In a statement, the broadcaster said it took public health advice “with the utmost seriousness” and has implemented “detailed workplace protocols” 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,” the statement 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 said while social distancing was observed “overall”, a number of the people “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,” it added.
“RTÉ 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.”
Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Dr. Gabriel Scally, resident of the epidemiology and public health section of Britain’s Royal Society of Medicine, said that the photos left him speechless, describing the photos as remarkable showing people with their arms around each other “standing on a mat which says keep at least 2-metres distance”.
At the beginning of his News at One programme, Bryan 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.
“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.