Switchover leaves some staring at snow


FOR MONTHS, Dolly O’Reilly has sought to prepare for the onset of digital TV in the valley of Bonane between Kenmare in Kerry and Glengarriff in west Cork.

The beautiful valley has a rich seam of megalithic tombs; so far, the valley has 250 recorded monuments, richer than the Boyne. Recent research has uncovered stones set to align with the sun and astronomical circles of great complexity. But in Bonane, aligning with the relatively modern invention of television is another matter altogether.

Analogue television was impossible to get in Bonane until the community clubbed together and bought and erected booster masts, which RTÉ eventually took over. With the analogue signal being switched off today, those boosters will no longer work, and the community, which so far has not been able to access satellite channels, believe their screens will go blank.

Unlike in areas of west Cork, RTÉ has refused to provide booster masts for the new satellite service, locals say.

Dolly has bought a new television and dish, but any bit of fog and wind and the signal freezes, so she is back to the old set and last night was sitting between two televisions in her cosy house tucked under the hill.

“I have to have two televisions. And now I am told this new one may never work properly here while the old one will be gone altogether.”

Whole areas of Kerry look set to go blank today, a meeting in Annascaul was told on Monday night. Dolly and her friends travelled from Kenmare to the village on the Dingle peninsula to be told the dishes they purchased would have to be replaced by new Saorsat dishes at €300.

O’Reilly, who lives alone, said: “All I have to do is watch the television. I have RTÉ1, RTÉ2 and TG4. They are the only ones we can get here. And even as it is the reception is poor. It freezes up. But we’ll have nothing tomorrow.” She was critical of the lack of information. For months Bonane people had been trying to highlight their difficulties.

Pat Sullivan of Bonane Post Office said: “The funny thing is they put up the boosters in west Cork. But not here.” Large Saorsat masts tried out in the area were too big and too sensitive for the local houses and the wind conditions and would require constant attention,” local TD Michael Healy-Rae said.

The Paps mountains around Rathmore, Lauragh and Tuosist in west Kerry needed the boosters. “It’s a disgrace. People are going to be looking at blank screens tomorrow. Everyone thinks you can get Sky anywhere – but you can’t,” he said.