Friday 18 January 2019

Martina Fitzgerald 'devastated' after losing RTE political correspondent role

Martina Fitzgerald. Picture: Damien Eagers
Martina Fitzgerald. Picture: Damien Eagers
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Martina Fitzgerald has been left "devastated" by RTE's decision not to renew her contract as a political correspondent, according to senior Montrose sources.

Senior RTE figures say Ms Fitzgerald will take the next few days to evaluate the station's decision not to extend her contract after it came up for renewal this year.

It is also understood that she has spoken to solicitors and is considering the various legal options available to her. "Martina is shocked and devastated by the decision," one source said.

"She is planning to take a few days to herself and consider her options. She is taking legal advice on the various avenues open to her."

The source added that Ms Fitzgerald had been a "huge success" over the last five years, with her work bringing "RTE's political coverage to a new level".

Cabinet minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor took the unprecedented decision to speak out against RTE's decision to replace Ms Fitzgerald.

In a message posted on Twitter, Ms Mitchell O'Connor said she was "very disappointed and annoyed" over RTE's decision.

The minister said "one of the most high-profile women in media" had been "taken out". She described Ms Fitzgerald as a "professional to her fingertips".

An RTE spokesperson said the station would not be responding to Ms Mitchell O'Connor's comments.

Ms Fitzgerald has been the face of RTE's political coverage on the Six One News for the last five years.

She has spent recent weeks promoting her bestselling book Madam Politician, which charts the plight of women who ran for election in Ireland. She has also been an outspoken advocate for gender pay equality.

Under a deal agreed by RTE unions, correspondent positions are reviewed every five years.

Ms Fitzgerald recently reapplied for the job. Senior RTE political staff member Paul Cunningham also applied for the role which was advertised internally through an open competition.

RTE released a statement last Friday announcing Mr Cunningham's appointment as political correspondent. The statement did not mention Ms Fitzgerald.

Mr Cunningham is a highly regarded and award-winning journalist who has worked at RTE for 25 years. He previously held the positions of environment and Europe correspondent.

Ms Fitzgerald was one of the leading voices in RTE during last year's controversy surrounding claims of a gender pay gap among staff at the station. "If prominent women in the industry I work in can trigger a wider public and long overdue debate - and effect change - then by our actions other women may also benefit. This is irrespective of what industry they are employed in," she wrote.

Ms Fitzgerald did not respond to requests for comment.

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