Minister is urged to reject drinks chief for RTE job

  • Post category:News

The appointment of the head of an alcohol-industry funded group to RTE’s governing body would put the drinks sector in a position of influence within the State broadcaster, the head of a leading medical organisation has warned.


The nomination of Fionnuala Sheehan, chief executive of Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (Meas), to the RTE board is being objected to by the President Designate of the Royal College of Physicians.

Prof Frank Murray, a Beaumont Hospital gastroenterologist, who treats patients daily who are ill from alcohol abuse, said the appointment of Ms Sheehan should not go ahead.

Ms Sheehan was nominated as a candidate for the board by the Oireachtas Communications Committee. A decision will be made on her appointment in February.

In a letter to Communications Minister Alex White, Prof Murray said that, as chief executive of Meas, Ms Sheehan has been vocal in criticising the Government’s strategy on alcohol which advocates more controls. He said she has argued for the prioritisation of education, such as This was launched by Meas in 2006 with the stated aim of bringing about a culture change in drinking habits.

Prof Murray told the minister this aim was “despite the fact that all the evidence supports action on price and availability over education”.

“We believe that the appointment of Ms Sheehan to the board of RTE will be viewed as a conflict of interest by public health bodies. It places somebody who has been a public advocate for the alcohol industry in a position of influence within the State broadcaster,” he added.

“Such a situation has the potential for the erosion of standards in relation to how alcohol is presented and promoted via the broadcast media.

“I urge you to protect the public health interest in rejecting this nomination.”

The minister has not yet reviewed the nominations. Vacancies will not arise until next year.

Ms Sheehan has already denied she had a conflict of interest. “I have already informed MEAS of my intention to step down and, in fact, my successor, Neil Gallagher, has already been announced,” she said.

“Whatever about the claim of conflict of interest, there can be absolutely none as membership of the board doesn’t commence until February 2015.

“I’m very proud of my work with Meas, and in addition have 25 years experience in the civil and public service, as well as the commercial and private sector and higher education sector.

“I’ve also undertaken formal training in company directing and am very aware of the responsibilities required in terms of independence.”