Fr Brian D’Arcy calls on RTÉ to suspend long wave radio closure

Emigrants have multiple ways of accessing radio through internet or TV, RTÉ says

Father Brian D’Arcy says RTÉ’s proposal to close the long wave service in February will deprive a generation of older emigrants in Britain of a link to home. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times

Father Brian D’Arcy says RTÉ’s proposal to close the long wave service in February will deprive a generation of older emigrants in Britain of a link to home. Photograph: Eric Luke /The Irish Times

 

Well-known priest Fr Brian D’Arcy has called on RTÉ to suspend the closure of its long wave radio service for five years.

Speaking at a press conference today, Fr D’Arcy said RTÉ’s proposal to close the long wave service in February will deprive a generation of older emigrants in Britain of a link to home.

RTÉ says the closure will save €250,000 a year and emigrants now have multiple ways of accessing RTÉ radio through the internet or their television sets.

RTÉ’s head of radio Jim Jennings recently told the Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Energy and Natural Resources that the €250,000 saving showed there was now a “tipping point” as far as digital radio services were concerned. He said the Irish diaspora in Britain had never had as many ways of accessing RTÉ services including Virgin, Sky and Freesat which is used by 98 per cent of people Britain.

However, Fr D’Arcy said the closure would affect the oldest cohort of Irish emigrants who would have emigrated in the 1950s and may not have internet.

He said: “We’re very cruel to the people who left this country and the country couldn’t have lived without those people. We have very short memories about the sacrifices they have made. It would be a small sacrifice to keep those people in touch for as long as they need to be in touch.”

He suggested five years as many of the emigrants who use long wave are very elderly.

RTÉ was intending to close the long wave service in October, but relented following a storm of protest from emigrant groups in Britain. It is now due to be closed early next week.

Noreen Bowden of Globalirish.ie said it would be “hard to imagine any other cut at RTÉ that would cause as much disconnection and isolation to as many people”.

“And as The Irish Times recently reported, the Irish diaspora sends back €800 million in remittances a year. The long wave costs are a pittance in comparison. There is simply no justification for Ireland not coming up with the money to fund this service - we owe this generation far more than that.”

Last week a delegation of emigrants from Britain led by Council of State member Sally Mulready met with RTÉ executives and the Minister for Communications Alex White about the closures.

Ms Mulready said the decision to close the service was in “direct contradiction to the spirit that has been driving moves towards increased diaspora engagement in recent years”.