'We won't get the match on radio for first time in over half a century'

Older expat Kerry fans in the UK left high and dry for All-Ireland replay as RTÉ cuts longwave transmission this week to undertake 'essential' works

They mounted a successful campaign to retain the radio service they say is vital for nothing less than their well-being.

But now that service is going down - just for the week - in a move that will see the Irish diaspora in the UK cut off from live coverage of an All-Ireland final for the first time in more than half a century.

The move leaves Kerry and Dublin native expats among the older generation of Irish emigrants to the UK high and dry when it comes to round two of what is for so many the most important event of the year.

But a simple tweak could see RTÉ broadcast on a different frequency and solve the whole problem seemingly oivernight, a group long campaigning to save the Longwave 252 frequency say.

The longwave campaign became one of the most important for the older ex-pat generation in the UK, ever since RTÉ first flagged plans to knock the entire longwave service on its head back in 2014.

It sparked an outcry among the diaspora; many of whom were forced to move to the UK for economic reasons in the 1950s and '60s, who worked hard all their lives and who, in their retirement, rely on the service for the news from home.

Such is the aged demographic, that they struggle with the fast evolving technologies of mass communications - including digital radio - they were directed towards in order to continue listening to RTÉ.

Furthermore many of them are living alone and the longwave service represents nothing less than a vital comfort, making them feel connected on a daily basis with the country of their birth. Campaigners said the LW station even went so far as to 'solve' loneliness for many elderly Irish.

The campaign resulted in a reprieve, ultimately, but it was only a short-term one with a guarantee it would be retained for a minium of just two years.

The Irish Government meanwhile commissioned the Social Policy Research Centre at Middlesex University to compile a study to find out all about its UK LW listeners.

Over 3,000 expats responded to that study, the RTÉ Longwave Listenership Survey; 98 per cent of them born here in Ireland.

The respondents said they primarily listened to Longwave 'to maintain a sense of Irishness and a link with Ireland and to keep up to date with news and current affairs 'back home'."

And more than 90 per cent of them listen to RTÉ Longwave 'every day or most days' in an indication of just how important it is to them. The report said the service is seen as a 'lifeline' for the majority of respondents.

But those in the Kerry diaspora - including Brosna man Pat Shine and Aghadoe native Eileen Maguire (pictured) - won't have the benefit of that lifeline to listen to the big replay due to an outage between Tuesday of this week and Thursday, September 17.

It's down for the week as RTÉ undertakes what it said is 'essential maintenance' to the LW mast. This is against a background of a deteriorating signal on RTÉ LW 252; many parts of the UK struggle to pick it up now already.

"It is ironic that London, the very home of Sam Maguire is the first victim of LW252 cutbacks following a cut in signal power," Longwave campaigner Enda O'Kane said.

He said that many Kerry expats feel completely let down now unable to watch the match on TV or access the internet.

But he suggested a quick remedy in the interim would make sure those without internet or TV access could still tune into the All-Ireland.

"Like the parliament is prorogued our longwave is prorogued, and at a critical time in living memory. It's the first time the All-Ireland won't be broadcast on radio here in over 50 years and many in the UK and in Northern Ireland are deeply upset by it."

He proposed what he said is a simple fix: "The station that is sitting on top of the Longwave channel increased its power in 2014 and the RTÉ Longwave is now inaudible in many places as a result.

"But there is a simple, overnight fix for RTÉ here at near zero cost - instead of expensive works on the mast at present.

"They can retune the mast to an adjacent spot on the dial, less than one channel distance away, on 261 kHz.

"It would mean getting agreement from the channel that used to be on it, Radio Bulgaria.

"But it would clear the interference now being experienced over a wide are of the UK," Mr O'Kane said.

It would boost morale of a selfless generation: "It makes the older diaspora feel as if they are not valued by the national broadcaster; these people who are known as 'remittance men and women', who paid for the education of a younger Irish generation through then remittances they sent home," Enda said. "There's no use just telling them to listen to it on the internet, many of them are impaired visually and/or dealing with chronic health problems and getting access to internet-based technology is not going to happen."

Kerryman

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