Revealed: The pay gap between RTE's best-known newscasters
Arguably more bankable, RTE newsreader Sharon Ni Bheolain earns considerably less than her male co-anchor, writes Niamh Horan
The pay gap between RTE's best-known newscasters has been revealed with Bryan Dobson earning between €60,000 to €80,000 per year more than his female co-anchor Sharon Ni Bheolain.
While Mr Dobson is among RTE's top 10 earners, with an annual salary of €195,816 in 2014, it is understood that Ms Ni Bheolain is paid considerably less.
The gender pay gap between two of the national broadcaster's most familiar faces comes as RTE plans its biggest newsroom shake-up in years.
When contacted yesterday, Ms Ni Bheolain, in response to questions over whether Mr Dobson is on double her salary according to RTE's 2014 figures, said: "As someone who values her privacy, the very notion of sharing my salary with your newspaper is abhorrent to me.
"I do, however, recognise inequality and gender pay are key social issues in need of examination and so it would be cowardly of me not to comment."
She continued: "I can confirm the 2014 pay disparity you reference was accurate. However, this pay gap has since narrowed.
"In return for a pay rise, I have also undertaken extra duties. I believe that I am well remunerated, but for the record, my pay is still considerably less than that of Bryan's. I won't be commenting further."
The Sunday Independent understands that Mr Dobson, who has presented the main TV news for more than two decades, will be moving to Morning Ireland.
Last week, the issue of men earning more than women in broadcasting was brought into sharp focus by revelations of significant pay disparities at the BBC in Britain.
At least 10 female BBC presenters are now considering legal action if the corporation does not narrow the gender pay gap.
The women, household names from radio and television, were furious to learn that male colleagues who shared their job descriptions are significantly better paid.
Back on this side of the Irish Sea, the Sunday Independent has learned that the pay gap between RTE's main TV news presenters was even greater until a few years ago.
At one time, Mr Dobson earned double the salary of his female co-anchor - though, arguably, she has the greater recognition factor among TV viewers. She was even referenced in TV adverts for Carlsberg beer.
The figure emerges as the BBC faces fierce criticism after being forced to expose its gender pay gap. The Irish State broadcaster has yet to do the same.
When contacted about the pay gap, RTE said it did not comment on individual salaries, however "the difference in earning power" across the board is down to "experience, length of service and range of duties".
Mr Dobson has been in the job 21 years, while Ms Ni Bheolain has been by his side since taking up the post in 2005. But they carry out remarkably similar duties and both share heavy responsibilities as the 'faces' of RTE's news coverage on television.
Both Ms Ni Bheolain and Mr Dobson present a similar number of Six One News bulletins. Both present a similar number of outside broadcasts, while news specials and breaking news programmes are largely shared 50/50 between the two newscasters.
Both anchors also present Leaders' Questions from Dail Eireann. Ms Ni Bheolain presents the programme on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while Mr Dobson presents on Wednesdays.
During the 2016 Election campaign Six One News coverage, Ms Ni Bheolain reported and presented all constituency programmes, while Mr Dobson conducted interviews with party leaders. In 2016, Mr Dobson also covered RTE's 1916 commemorations.
Ms Ni Bheolain is currently the main presenter, while Mr Dobson is on a three-month incentivised sabbatical.
Meanwhile, as part of the newsroom shake-up, Mr Dobson will step down as a main evening news broadcaster to take up a post as a presenter on Morning Ireland - RTE Radio One's flagship morning current affairs show. Cathal Mac Coille is expected to retire in the coming weeks.
It remains to be seen who will replace him but it is understood that RTE is lining up a male presenter. It also remains to be seen if the new newscaster will be put in a more senior position than Ms Ni Bheolain and on what salary.
When asked about the pay gap this weekend, an RTE spokesperson told the Sunday Independent: "RTE overall pay takes into account a wide range of factors including levels of experience, length of service and range of duties or programming a person is involved in.
"RTE does not comment on individual staff salaries."
When asked if RTE is open to releasing its pay scales in its totality, a separate spokesperson said: "RTE is very proud of its on-air talent, both male and female, who continue to make a valuable contribution to our public service.
"In line with our public commitment, RTE has been publishing details of its top 10 highest earners for a number of years and has to date published figures for 2008-2014. RTE has reduced the fees paid to top talent by 40pc since 2008.
''The total top 10 presenter earnings for 2014 represents less than 1pc of RTE's total operating costs in 2014 and less than 2pc of total personnel-related operating costs. Salaries and earnings at RTE are not based on gender.
"Diversity within the organisation is being considered as part of RTE's five-year strategy which is due to be presented to the BAI (Broadcasting Authoring of Ireland) in September."
It added: "RTE would adhere to any legal requirements to disclose further information on salaries, including gender-related information."