Zeal of language lobby prompted Andrews to leave RTE authority


Eamonn Andrews resigned as chairman of the RTE Authority in 1966 because he believed Irish was being promoted too zealously by the language lobby.

He wrote, in a confidential letter to the Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, on April 25th: "There are, of course, frustrations and hostilities of which you are aware and which, no doubt, may right themselves in time, but these are not the reason for my decision.

"I'm afraid the authority as now constituted is too susceptible to outside pressures, principally on the score of the Irish language. Believe me, I recognise the problems you and the Government face in this area, and I have tried to compromise to the point beyond which honesty will not permit me to go. "I fear very much that if present RTE policies in this respect are pursued, the service will get so far ahead of public acceptance that it will lose the Irish viewer to crosschannel services as happened in radio.

"I already have distressing evidence of repercussions within the organisation itself. For the most sincere reasons, some members are pressing an unrealistic policy which I believe may have both artistic and financial repercussions of an unfortunate kind.

"Enough practical boardroom experience of public service budgets and balance sheets is not available to counterbalance the idealism that, no doubt, inspires the present course of action."

He added, from his home in London in May: "When all this becomes known I must, as I know you understand, explain that I have resigned on a principle. I will not do this to add to the controversies that already exist about such things as the Irish language, but to emphasise, if only to my former colleagues, the danger and shortsightedness I believe to be synonymous with the present policy."

A disgruntled exile, Dr J.J. Brennan, wrote to Mr Lemass from England expressing approval at the appointment of Dr C.S. Andrews as the new chairman. On the other hand, "an ardent supporter" of the Taoiseach wondered why a man who "retires with pension from one job which he was not very successful in, should be appointed to a post which he knows nothing about".

But Dr Brennan wanted "that arch shoneen Eamonn Andrews" to "stay where he belongs and is suited to - Britain. I always think how funny it is that he and Padraig Pearce [sic] each had an English father and an Irish mother. Yet the one loved our Gaelic culture so passionately and gave his life for it and the other doesn't give a tinker's curse for it."

Dr Brennan referred to the destruction of Nelson Pillar, in March 1966, in another letter: "If the bomb which blew up Nelson had blown up Montrose [RTE studios] there would have been more sense to it. Montrose is the real citadel of British power in Ireland."

The opening of the new Abbey Theatre attracted more begrudgery. A correspondent wrote to Mr Lemass from Dublin on July 8th, 1966, that the Abbey "never did anything but harm to Ireland. It held all Irishmen up before the world as goms, sleevens, pilforers and drunkards and ignorant savages, the English and the Americans know this and encourage it for their own ends."