Almost a dozen journalists, including some of its best-known writers, are set to depart the Sunday Times Ireland and Times Ireland amid a cost-slashing restructuring of the news publisher’s operations described as “brutal” by staff.
Senior columnist and correspondent Justine McCarthy, political editor Stephen O’Brien, sports journalist Denis Walsh, news editors Colin Coyle and Ben Haugh, picture editor Eileen Martin and deputy editor John Burns are among those accepting redundancy packages.
Mr Burns served as acting editor for a year following the departure of editor Frank Fitzgibbon and before the permanent appointment of former Sunday Tribune editor Nóirín Hegarty in the role last October.
[ Job losses as journalists have to reapply for roles at Sunday Times ]
[ Nóirín Hegarty appointed Times Ireland editor ]
Eithne Shortall, a novelist and former arts writer for the newspaper who was more recently editor of its Home supplement, announced her exit on Twitter earlier this week, with deputy picture editor Jason O’Neill also indicating on social media that he was departing.
It is understood that a total of 11 journalists — which is more than half the 20 journalists that were, as of June, employed full-time at the Sunday newspaper and its online-only sister title Times Ireland — will leave. Many of those going are long-serving, senior staff who were among the higher earners in the Dublin office.
The exodus follows a move by News Ireland, which is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp UK & Ireland media empire, to ask 15 of the 20 to reapply for 12 new roles, which were redefined with an added “digital” element in the job description.
Irish-originating Monday to Saturday online content will cease as part of the new regime, however, while the Sunday edition is expected to publish fewer Irish items.
The company’s management is said to have been vague about the salaries that would be offered under the new roles, but a number of the departing journalists were told that they would face pay cuts of 10-30 per cent after the restructuring, discouraging some from applying.
Others went through the process and were interviewed for the “new” positions this week, despite a possible pay cut, but four were subsequently told they had been unsuccessful.
A spokeswoman for News Ireland said employees who have been offered roles in the new structure were not taking a pay cut and that the consultation process will conclude next week. Redundancy packages for people employed before 2015 will equate to their salary for a year and four months.
Staff who joined after 2015 will receive the statutory minimum of two weeks’ pay per year of service, plus one month’s pay in lieu of notice.
The 11 departures since the restructuring process was set in train in late June do not include long-standing finance journalist Niall Brady, who has retired from the newspaper, or news journalist Mark Tighe, who joined the Sunday Independent last month.
With the number of exits sharply exceeding the three redundancies initially sought, the Sunday Times — which is unconnected to The Irish Times — is expected to make new hires in the months ahead. The title recently appointed Aoife Moore from the Irish Examiner as a political correspondent.
Both the team from the Sunday Times and the Irish Sun, which is also owned by News Ireland, as well as staff of publisher HarperCollins Ireland, will shortly move into office premises already used by the Murdoch-owned radio group Wireless in Dublin’s docklands.