Positive meeting at Irish Embassy leads campaigners to believe deadline extended
RTÉ Radio One’s LW transmissions – due to be switched off this year –are expected to continue until 2019 following a meeting at the Embassy of Ireland in London last week.
As yet Ireland’s national broadcaster has not official confirmed what those present at the meeting said was the very clear message that the service will continue for a little while yet.
As recently as October RTÉ said it was still its “intention to close the service in 2017” although conceded it was prepared to perhaps let the deadline slip by a few months. Last week’s consultative meeting in London between representatives of RTÉ, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Irish community groups was said by those resent to have been a positive affair.
The broadcaster made a statement in which it said nothing had changed “(but) positive progress has been made by the Group and it is intended that an announcement will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.”
It followed interventions in Ireland’s Seanad last week by Independent Senator Billy Lawless imploring the Irish government to intervene to ensure the service continues.
Donegal TD and Junior Foreign Minister Joe McHugh – who holds ministerial responsibility for the Diaspora and for International Development – suggested some sort of temporary compromise might be on the way when he said “hopeful a positive outcome when he said he was “hopeful that a positive outcome can be achieved”.
Minister McHugh made similar remarks on a visit to London last month. Senator Lawless told the Seanad: “There are more than 600,000 Irishborn emigrants living in the UK, with many of its older members forced out of Ireland in the 1950s with little education and no prospects of work at home.’’
“Unsurprisingly, it was the so-called older age groups who (do) not access the service on digital radio platforms, on a laptop or digital TV.
“Nobody is trying to halt the digitalisation of our media or impede RTÉ in its process of modernisation,’’ but to carry out the existing plan would be discriminatory against this particular group of Irish people in the UK, 72 per cent of whom were over 60, and of whom 68 per cent were born in Ireland and 62 per cent retired. Some 44 per cent listen to the station in their cars, he added. For most of them, he said, LW was a “lifeline to Ireland”.
In September 2014 RTE originally announced plans to shut down its long wave 252 service on 27 October 2014, this was until 19 January 2015.
On 18 December 2014, a decision was taken to continue long wave radio services until 2017. The Department of Foreign Affairs, working with the Irish in Britain group (formerly Federation of Irish Societies) paid for the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University to carry out a survey. A total of 3,191 people completed the individual questionnaires.
Ireland’s Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan and his junior minister Joe McHugh said the Irish government “recognises the special value placed on RTE’s long wave 252 service by some Irish citizens in the Britain, especially the elderly, and my Department is working closely with RTE to ensure that the views of this community are heard in any decision-making process.
“While any decision on the future of long wave services in Britain is ultimately an operational matter for RTE, it can, as a result of the study, now be informed by awareness of the role that the service plays in preserving and enhancing links with Ireland and keeping our people in Britain informed of important events and developments, such as the UK’s vote to leave the European Union and the Irish Government’s position.”