Grainne rows back on 'nasty' remarks about colleagues
TELEVISION presenter Grainne Seoige last night attempted to row back on comments she made which RTE staff unions described as "cheap and nasty" and "irresponsible and unwarranted".
The 38-year-old, who resigned from ITV's 'Daybreak' programme earlier this summer, found herself in the middle of controversy after claiming the reason RTE doesn't make breakfast television is because "people don't want to work".
Ms Seoige made the comments when describing her working day at ITV.
"I'd get into work at 4.30am and everyone's been up since ridiculous o'clock and the hairdryers are going and there's laughing and joking coming out of the rooms, and it's like a wedding party getting ready every morning," she said.
"Nobody ever comes in saying 'oh it's awful', because nobody's whinge is more important than anyone else's. And we're all there and we all have to go on at 6am smiling.
"And you have to ask yourself: 'Why is there no breakfast television on RTE?' Because people don't want to work," she said.
Last night, Ms Seoige conceded that her comment, heard in isolation, "could come across as dismissive". She added that all her colleagues in RTE work "hugely long hours" and that she "wouldn't dream of offending them".
But earlier Pat Ward, SIPTU organiser of the RTE trade union, had criticised the remarks.
"These comments by Grainne Seoige are irresponsible and unwarranted," he said.
"The staff in RTE, the lighting, the cameras, the people working in sound and programming, don't earn anything near what Grainne Seoige earns but have taken paycuts and have been asked to forego annual leave.
"I think in that context Grainne Seoige could show a little more courtesy and respect for the people who make her look good on TV."
Ms Seoige's comments come as RTE staff are being asked to lose two-and-a-half days' annual leave and work extra hours in a bid to save €1.2m. But the cuts do not affect RTE stars, like Seoige, who are employed as contract workers.
And the unions claimed it might be the cost of paying 'stars' like Seoige -- rather than rank and file workers -- that is keeping breakfast television off RTE. "It could well be Miss Seoige, and the fees that sub-contractors are paid, which prohibit RTE from broadcasting breakfast programmes.
"Maybe RTE can't afford her (Ms Seoige)", said Mr Ward.
Seamus Dooley, Irish Secretary of the NUJ and a member of the executive on the group of unions at RTE, also criticised Ms Seoige for the remarks.
"These comments are cheap and nasty and without foundation. I would expect better from someone who has a background in factual broadcasting," he said. "RTE workers, both staff and freelance, clearly want to work. It is not my experience of RTE that there is any unwillingness to work, or to make programmes.
"People in RTE already work through the night and work anti-social hours. For instance, on radio programmes like 'Morning Ireland', work would start very early.
"There are currently no proposals on the table from management in RTE regarding breakfast television, but if there were, unions in RTE would engage in negotiations with management the same as we do every day of the week," said Mr Dooley.
An RTE spokeswoman said staff had always responded to demand for new services in a flexible manner. "The demand and business case for breakfast TV have never been such as to make it a priority," she said.