ONE of RTE's top executives is quitting the station after a career lasting more than 35 years.
Clare Duignan, managing director of RTE Radio, insisted she could have stayed in her position. She said she is not leaving on a package but rather chose not to renew her contract. She will leave next month.
The decision was "one of the hardest things I have ever done", she said, adding that she wanted to move on to a "new chapter" in her career.
The move comes amid a downturn in RTE's revenues because of the recession and turmoil in 2FM following the death of broadcaster Gerry Ryan in April 2010.
Although audiences at RTE Radio One and Lyric FM have remained stable, replacing Gerry Ryan has proved more difficult. His replacement, Ryan Tubridy, has lost 13,000 listeners in the last year.
Ms Duignan joined RTE in 1977 as a radio producer and was director of programmes, television from 2003 before taking up her current position in 2009.
She said there had been "seismic" changes in the sector in recent years, with falling revenues meaning some ambitious projects had to be shelved.
"I would like to think that in radio we have managed to protect our core schedule. Radio One has a bigger listenership now and Lyric has held steady, despite downsizing."
She was leaving to pursue other opportunities, she said. "I'm a youthful 57. It just feels like the right time to go. I've done four years and my contract is up. I'm not going to another job."
A married mother of three, she added that she is studying in the Institute of Directors and hoped to pursue other avenues.
Ms Duignan is the second high-profile departure from the station in recent weeks after John McMahon left as head of 2FM last month.
Jim Jennings, head of RTE Radio One, will take up an interim role as managing director for RTE Radio.
RTE director general Noel Curran described Ms Duignan as "a key figure in RTE".
"As director of programmes, television, and subsequently as MD of RTE Radio, she has been a passionate advocate for the public service, and has placed the public service ethos at the heart of her services.
"We will particularly miss her deep understanding of audiences and their needs, and her expertise in strategic communications," he added.