Cabinet Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor has said she is “very disappointed and annoyed” over RTÉ’s decision to replace Martina Fitzgerald as one of the station’s political correspondents.
In a message posted on Twitter, Ms O’Connor said “one of the most high profile women in media” had been “taken out”. She described Ms Fitzgerald as “professional to her finger tips”.
The minister’s comments came after the Irish Independent revealed how the decision to replace Ms Fitzgerald as political correspondent had shocked the journalist’s colleagues.
Ms Fitzgerald will continue working as a journalist for RTÉ News, an RTÉ spokesman said.
However, a senior source said: "There is really big shock in RTÉ and there is huge sympathy for Martina."
Another senior source at the broadcaster said people have been left "stunned" by news Ms Fitzgerald will no longer be a political correspondent.
Ms Fitzgerald has been the face of RTÉ’s political coverage on the Six One News for the last five years.
She spent recent weeks promoting her bestselling book ‘Madam Politician’, which charts the plight of women who ran for election in Ireland. She has also be an outspoken advocate for gender pay equality.
Under a deal agreed by RTÉ unions, correspondence positions are reviewed every five years.
After her first term as a political correspondent, Ms Fitzgerald recently reapplied for the job.
Mr Cunningham also applied for the job which was advertised internally as an open competition.
RTÉ released a statement yesterday announcing Mr Cunningham’s appointment as political correspondent. The statement did not mention Ms Fitzgerald.
Mr Cunningham is an award-winning journalist who has been working in RTÉ for 25 years. He previously held the positions of environment and Europe correspondent.
Ms Fitzgerald was one of the leading voices in RTÉ during last year’s controversy surrounding claims of a gender pay gap among staff working at the station.
“If prominent women in the industry I work in can trigger a wider public and long overdue debate – and affect change – then by our actions other women may also benefit. This is irrespective of what industry they are employed in,” she wrote.
She was writing after it emerged there was a significant difference in pay paid to former RTE Six One co-hosts Bryan Dobson and Sharon Ní Bheoláin. The controversy resulted in a gender pay review of RTE staff salaries.
When contacted for comment, an RTÉ spokesperson said: "Martina Fitzgerald will continue reporting as a journalist for RTÉ News."
An RTE spokesperson added the station would not be responding to the minister’s comments.
Ms Fitzgerald did not respond to requests for comment.