Irish in UK urge RTÉ to retain radio service

Diaspora support group criticises plan to shut down longwave radio

Seán O’Rourke, one of the radio presenters popular with Irish listeners in the UK.   Photograph: Frank Miller

Seán O’Rourke, one of the radio presenters popular with Irish listeners in the UK. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

is making fresh appeals for the retention of RTÉ’s longwave service ahead of its planned closure next month.

Retired London policeman Tom Forde said people in Ireland did not realise how cut-off the Irish community in the UK could feel.

From Leitrim and in the UK since 1961, he said he had “a longwave radio in my bedroom, the kitchen, the living room, another room and the car. It keeps me in touch.”

It is “not practical” for him to “sit there in front of a blank screen” and listen to RTÉ on his television or on his mobile phone “where it keeps cutting off or the battery goes dead”.

He listens “to the news, Morning Ireland, Seán O’Rourke, Joe Duffy, Mary Wilson”. He knows “loads who listen, particularly in construction, on the sites or when they’re operating machines”.

He notes that RTÉ has a statutory obligation to cater for the Irish diaspora, “where practical, and it is practical”.

Sally Mulready, director of the Irish Elderly Advice Network in London, who was appointed to the Council of State by President Michael D Higgins in 2012, has called for RTÉ to allow her and others in the UK time to prove that more than 2,000 Irish people there listen to the station on longwave, as the broadcaster claimed.

Petition

The Irish Times.

She said according to the 2011 census there were 600,000 Irish-born people in the UK, “162,000 in London, 95,000 in Manchester, 14,000 in Tyneside” .

Having worked for 20 years with Irish people in London, she knew RTÉ’s longwave service was “a lifeline” for them.

Kathleen Dinan, based in Manchester, said she listened to “everything” Radio 1 has had to offer since 1955. It “means the world to me and my husband”, she told the Irish Post newspaper.

Also in Manchester, Katherine McDonald said she had been listening to RTÉ on longwave for over 40 years. Ending the service “will make me feel isolated as I enjoy all the programmes, especially Joe Duffy”.

Tony Scallan (78), based in north London, described himself as an avid listener to RTÉ longwave. “I don’t want the switch-off.”

Gordon Stott (59) in Oldham listens particularly in his car. “I have LW radio specially fitted. [It] keeps me in touch with the best island in the world.”

Senator Paschal Mooney has asked why some of the €14 million allocated by Government towards the diaspora could not be used to fund the RTÉ longwave service. “People in Northern Ireland should not be forgotten either,” he said, adding that RTÉ’s FM service could be problematic in parts of that jurisdiction.

RTÉ plans to pull the plug on the service on January 19th. Director of radio Jim Jennings postponed the decision in October so the company could assess the likely impact on listeners in the UK.