BROADCASTER Fr Brian D’Arcy has called on RTE to delay its closure of the longwave radio service beloved of the older generation of Irish emigrants in Britain.
Fr D’Arcy said the proposal to end the service in January will deprive older people of a lifeline to home and would also hit fishermen and those Irish people travelling abroad.
He called for the announcement to continue the service to be made before Christmas.
“What a present this would be for a lonely man sitting in a flat in London,” he said.
Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan has written to RTE’s Director General to make him aware of the depth of concerns among the Irish community in Britain regarding the longwave service.
Mr Deenihan said while he appreciates this is an operational matter for the national broadcaster, he hoped that a way can be found to address these concerns over the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Minister for Communications, Alex White, said the Government has no role in RTE’s operational decisions but that his department has been briefed on the rationale for ending the service.
He said he was assured that RTE is working with the Irish Embassy in London to ensure its audience in Britain was aware of the various ways to listen to Radio 1.
RTE says the closure will save the broadcaster €250,000 a year and claimed there were now multiple ways of accessing RTÉ radio through the internet or television sets.
Noreen Bowden, of Globalirish.ie, said petitions across the UK were gathering momentum, with 1,000 signatures collected in Manchester alone.
“There is simply no justification for not coming up with the money to fund this service – we owe this generation far more than that,” she said.
One elderly Irishman living in the UK, James Moriarty (85), originally from Co Kerry, previously told the Herald he fears he’ll lose his only connection to home if the service goes.
Mr Moriarty lives in a self-contained sheltered flat with the Inisfree Housing Association in London.
“It’s great company when you’re living on your own. I would be lost without the RTE radio. It’s on all the time when I’m in,” he explained.