`Partitionist policy' barring northerners from RTÉ competitions
NORTHERN Ireland viewers will continue to be barred from taking part in RTÉ competitions until a minister returns to the Department of Communities, an assembly member has said.
A difference in gaming law and policy on both sides of the border "is being used" to blocking citizens living in Northern Ireland from taking part in RTÉ competitions, SDLP assembly member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty said.
Mr McNulty noted the broadcaster has "changed their policy in relation to participation in competitions on their popular TV shows like the Sunday Game and The Late Late Show" in recent months.
"I have been contacted by quite a number of constituents complaining about the issue and I raised their concerns with both RTÉ and the Department of Communities in Belfast," he said.
"When I contacted the director general of RTÉ to raise my concerns I was advised that the change in policy followed an internal review within RTÉ.
"The review centred around how regulations governing premium rate competitions are applied in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland. That RTÉ review found that Northern Ireland regulations require any prize competitions where there's a cost for entering must include an element of skill.
"The regulations in the north are governed by the Department of Communities and having corresponded with the permanent secretary at the department they have kicked back responsibility to RTÉ in Dublin."
However, Mr McNulty branded the situation "a shambles", saying "(permanent secretary) Tracy Meharg... did point out in her response that a review into gaming and gambling legislation here commenced in 2012 and it is for an incoming minister to decide the way forward".
He insisted this meant northerners should be able to participate.
"To be frank, it's a partitionist policy which is preventing people from here participating in these competitions. RTÉ is our national broadcaster - people in Newry are every much as entitled to participate in competitions' as people living in New Ross.
"There is no legal impediment preventing northern citizens participating in phone in competitions in the south."