Monday 19 August 2019

'She was really upset so I was like, how do I fix it?' - Brendan Courtney on splitting the difference on pay with Sonya Lennon on Off the Rails

Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Brendan Courtney insists his decision to 'split the difference' when Sonya Lennon was paid less than him for Off the Rails was 'easy because it wasn't that much money'.

The presenting duo, who own clothing label Lennon Courtney, presented the fashion show in 2008 on the national broadcaster and discovered during their tenure that they were not paid equally.

Sonya recently revealed that they both lobbied bosses to be paid the same before Brendan agreed to 'split the difference'.

"I was very lucky that I was working with a man who really valued equality in all ways and set the record straight and levelled the playing field for us," she told The Herald.

"Brendan said, 'I will split the difference', and that's what happened."

Speaking to Independent.ie, Brendan has played down the gesture, insisting, "The step was easy to take because it wasn't that much money.  It was a very small amount."

The issue was raised in recent weeks in the wake of controversy over the gender pay gap at RTE, highlighted by Six One News anchor Sharon Ni Bheolain and which resulted in a gender pay review at the national broadcaster.

Brendan Courtney 'split the difference' when Sonya Lennon was paid less than him for RTE's Off the Rails 

However, Brendan feels the disparity between their pay on Off the Rails was not down to gender.

"It was not down to malice from our employer.  I think it was an oversight," he says.  "I don’t think it was a male/female thing, I really don’t.  I think it was a poorly judged oversight."

Once he and Sonya had had the 'awkward conversation' about pay, he says Sonya was "really upset".

Their six month contracts had already been issued and Brendan felt that splitting the difference was the easiest way to resolve the situation as it was a "quick fix" and "didn't cost much money".

As for his motivation, he adds, "I just thought I can't work with an unhappy person.  It was very selfish.  I don't believe that there's any such thing as altruistic action from anyone. You do things to make you feel good.  And it may be easier."

Having waited 17 years for a show like Off the Rails, he said he wanted to do "whatever it takes to make it good".

"We did a good job," he says.  "[It was] a part of the foundation of trust that we built together.  I love Sonya.  She's great."

Brendan is currently hosting This Crowded House on RTE, which concludes next Tuesday on RTE 2 at 9.30pm.

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