Northern Ireland news


Sinn Féin MLA in Twitter spat with Radio Ulster presenter over GAA coverage

Action from Saturday's Tyrone v Mayo All Ireland senior football clash at Croke Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Marie Louise McConville

A SINN Féin MLA has clashed with a BBC Radio Ulster presenter on social media over the broadcaster's coverage of GAA games.

Saturday saw Tyrone win the All-Ireland senior football final, Antrim take the All-Ireland Intermediate camogie crown and Armagh lose out in the Junior All-Ireland camogie final.

However Sinn Féin assembly member Sinéad Ennis took to Twitter yesterday asking when BBC NI would "get real" about its coverage of Gaelic Games.

The South Down MLA, who in 2018 took the campaign 'Fair Play For Ulster Gaels' to the offices of the BBC and RTÉ demanding better GAA coverage, said: "What’s wrong with the BBC? 3 Ulster teams competing in All-Ireland Finals and hardly a mention?

"When will the publicly funded broadcaster get real about Gaelic Games? I have submitted a `Matter of The Day' request to The Speaker so this can be discussed by the Assembly."

Her comments were quickly seized on by Good Morning Ulster presenter Sarah Brett who replied: "Pretty sure I just co-presented a two and a half hour breakfast programme on Radio Ulster where @TyroneGAALive was the lead at 7am and 8am."

She went on to link the times of the programmes which ran for 36 minutes and one hour and 36 minutes adding: "Niall Morgan was a pleasure to listen to. Unless I dreamt it."

However Ms Ennis, an MLA in South Down and her party's Assembly deputy whip, hit back saying: "Surely not a BBC journalist suggesting that we should genuflect, be grateful for, fall at the feet of the BBC for doing the absolute bare minimum expected of them?"

Last night Ms Ennis was unrepentant saying: "People are quite rightly frustrated at the inability to watch the biggest spectator sport on this island on their television screens all year round; during club games and championships.

"The GAA has over a quarter of a million members who simply want parity and equality from the broadcaster that they pay their licence fee to, and this must be reflected in their coverage".

It is not the first time in recent years that the broadcaster has been criticised for its GAA coverage.

As recently as July, it apologised to GAA fans after the broadcast of an Ulster football championship clash was delayed for two-and-a-half hours in favour of Wimbledon.

A BBC NI spokesman last night said its "current rights agreement with the GAA runs until 2022".

"While BBC NI can show matches in the men’s Ulster Senior Football Championship on television, the current contract does not allow BBC NI to show matches or highlights packages in the All-Ireland series," he said.

The spokesman said live commentary of the All-Ireland senior football final "was available across BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle and BBC Sounds.

"We also focused on the build up to the Final last week across BBC Northern Ireland output including features on BBC News NI, BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle and across our digital services.

"We are committed to providing our audiences with the best possible portfolio of sports across our platforms within the context of a highly competitive sports rights market, budgetary pressures and competing demands across our output/content".

In a statement yesterday, Ms Ennis said: "The All-Ireland final is the most exciting day of the year for Gaels across the whole of Ireland, not least for the three teams from the north who were competing this year.

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