40 years a-broadcasting
Pól Ó Muirí
RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta begin celebrating 40 years on air this week with a number of commemorative programmes and interviews. I belong to that generation of Belfast Irish speakers who could only get RnaG if we hung the radio in the attic, hope that the wind would blow from the west and that it was high tide in Loch Lao. Indeed, I well remember taped programmes from RnaG being handed around at A-level conversation classes like they were gold and the teachers very anxious that they get their precious language booty back.
How times have changed. The station is on 24/7 with a range of programmes to cater for the traditional Gaeltacht areas, Irish speakers outside the Gaeltacht and, increasingly, Irish speakers abroad. No need for teacher to worry anymore about losing his tape!
Certainly, the station has evolved and it does face some very difficult challenges in the future, most notably in keeping the young ones tuned in and getting the necessary resources to develop. That said, there can be little doubt that it has achieved so much and has enriched the lives of native and non-native speakers with its news programmes, current affairs and general chit chat.
No doubt we have all tuned in to whatever programme answered our own regional needs but there are now, thankfully, a handful of good programmes that cater for a national audience. It is a difficult balancing act between regional and national and the station may not get it right all the time – but I think it is fair to say it is making the effort.
That said, my mind keeps returning to the “scéaltaí báis” – or the death notices. Yes, it seems a bit odd to mention them in an article that marks a celebration but there was always something very intimate about hearing the deaths of locals on RnaG – and hearing their names given not as “Mr This” and “Mrs That” but rather in the traditional Gaeltacht form of Christian name and ancestor together. It left many a Belfast student scratching his head until the reason for it was explained.
“It is different in the Gaeltacht,” the teacher would say. Yes, it is. Long may that difference continue and long may RnaG give voice to it.