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Political backlash grows after 24 hours of radio silence over gender pay

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Fianna Fáil's Communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley (centre), said RTÉ needs to 'clarify its policy on pay equality and provide in-depth oversight'. Photo: Tom Burke

Fianna Fáil's Communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley (centre), said RTÉ needs to 'clarify its policy on pay equality and provide in-depth oversight'. Photo: Tom Burke

Fianna Fáil's Communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley (centre), said RTÉ needs to 'clarify its policy on pay equality and provide in-depth oversight'. Photo: Tom Burke

RTÉ is facing a major political backlash on foot of revelations that newscaster Sharon Ní Bheoláin is earning up to €80,000 less than her co-anchor Bryan Dobson.

Representatives of the main political parties have hit out at the national broadcaster, accusing management of a lack of transparency.

Fianna Fáil has written to RTÉ's Director General Dee Forbes, demanding that she begins publishing an annual report on pay discrepancies between its high-profile presenters.

The party's communications spokesman, Timmy Dooley, said the station needs to "clarify its policy on pay equality and provide in-depth oversight".

He noted RTÉ gave practically no coverage to Ms Ní Bheoláin comments in the 'Sunday Independent' until yesterday afternoon, by which time the row over gender pay was being widely reported.

"Some of its most popular and primetime shows on both radio and television over the weekend failed to highlight the concern for gender pay scales at the public broadcaster.

"It is in silence that a gender pay gap thrives. Silence, in fact, preserves the gap that exists," Mr Dooley said.

He told this newspaper independent auditors should be brought in to carry out a full review of pay across the organisation, and the results should be made public.

Chairperson of the Oireachtas Communications Committee Hildegarde Naughton called on RTÉ to expedite the publication of salaries of top earners.

"Leading female journalists and broadcasters have voiced concerns about pay discrepancies between themselves and their male colleagues.

"Concerns have also been raised about gender representation in the broadcaster's top roles.

"As a public service broadcaster, RTÉ not only has a responsibility to its own employees, but to the media industry as a whole, and should be leading the way in parity of pay and gender representation," she said.

And the Labour Party's Ivana Bacik said a gender pay gap is not new, but added: "As a publicly funded body, RTÉ has an obligation to be fully transparent on these matters, and to put plans in place to rectify any gender pay gap that is revealed.

"It is important that in every large organisation we develop a culture of transparency regarding disparities in pay scales, so that any gender pay gap can ultimately be eradicated."

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Earlier this year, the Labour Party published legislation that would require all organisations with more than 50 staff to publish information on pay scales in order to establish if any gender bias exists.

This legislation has passed second stage in the Seanad, and Ms Bacik will be pushing for it to become law in the autumn.

The National Women's Council of Ireland called on the Government to introduce sanctions for companies who receive public funding if they don't take action to address gender gaps.

Director Orla O'Connor said: "Data should be made available to the public in the interests of transparency to show the figures for the gender gaps in Irish companies in the public and private sector."


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