FORMER 'Late Late Show' host Pat Kenny earned almost €2m in two years, topping RTE's poll of the highest paid presenters.
The radio presenter earned €922,949 in 2007 and this increased to €950,976 last year, during a period when the State broadcaster admitted salaries to top personalities were "excessive". The 10 highest paid RTE stars earned nearly €4.5m between them last year alone, according to figures released by the station yesterday.
But last night Mr Kenny said he had reduced his fee by over 25pc and took an additional 10pc pay cut this year to bring his earnings down to €630,000.
"I am satisfied that the significant reduction in the fees paid to my company takes account of current economic circumstances while also reflecting my experience over 37 years in broadcasting at RTE," he said in a statement issued last night.
RTE defended the massive salaries and said the total paid to the top 10 earners for this year "will be 11.5pc lower than in 2008" -- which still amounts to nearly €4m.
The broadcaster anticipates around €56m of cost savings will be implemented by the end of this year through a combination of cost-reduction measures. It said the 2007-2008 salaries reflected "a period of buoyant trading when RTE was experiencing exceptional growth in revenues". "RTE, like all other media organisations depending on commercial revenues, is facing severe financial challenges and has had to make significant cost savings across the organisation," it added in a statement.
RTE's director general Cathal Goan said last night the contracts were set at a "different time". "There's no question that by today's standard, they were excessive but I have to repeat the contracts were set at a different time, in a different reality, in a different competitive reality where some of this talent would have been up for poaching from various other organisations and RTE's view at the time was they delivered value for money," he said.
The presenters' salaries for this year were not issued by RTE but a spokesman for the station said they would be "released, as normal, in the next year or so".
"We gave some information about 2009. We normally give information two years in arrears as it is commercially sensitive. It's as much as we can give," he said.
All RTE staff, including managers, agreed to pay cuts which were implemented from July.
Gerry Ryan's pay was reduced by almost €47,000 last year but he still brought home €629,865 in 2008. Radio host Marian Finucane earned €100,000 more in 2008, bringing her wage packet to €570,000 last year.
The current 'Late Late Show' host Ryan Tubridy earned €533,333 last year, compared to €366,867 in 2007.
'Liveline' host Joe Duffy was paid €408,889 last year and €377,648 the year before bringing his take-home pay to €786,537. Pundit and journalist Eamonn Dunphy earned €328,051 last year and €285,915 in 2007.
Prime Time's Miriam O'Callaghan earned €301,667 in 2008 in comparison to €290,767 in 2007. She said her salary since last year has been reduced by 10pc and her current income was now €271,500.
She said she would also be "happy to take a further pay cut". "I am acutely aware we live in a totally different Ireland," she said.
Other top earners at Montrose last year included Derek Mooney (€286,809), commentator George Hamilton (€219,833), and 'News At One' presenter Sean O'Rourke (€218,656).
Critic John Kelly earned €215,636 in 2007 but failed to make the list last year.
Gerry Ryan, Ryan Tubridy, and Joe Duffy did not return calls last night when contacted by the Irish Independent.
But Eamonn Dunphy said his salary this year was "very significantly lower to take into account the economic circumstances of the country. These contracts were negotiated at a different time, probably three to four or five to six years ago.
"I think everyone in RTE understands that and I do understand people will think it's too high," he said.
Dunphy said he would be willing to take a further pay cut if required.
RTE was criticised by Labour's Liz McManus for not releasing the data sooner.
"This information should be easily available and there should be no question of concealing it or making it in any way inaccessible," she said.
Fine Gael's Simon Coveney said the high salaries were "rubbing salt in the wounds" for people who had lost their jobs or taken significant pay cuts.
A spokesman for the country's biggest trade union, SIPTU, said last night: "While acknowledging that some of these high-fliers offered to take voluntary cuts in their contracts, it is unclear from the figures published to date if any reductions occurred to match those of their lower paid colleagues."