Northern Ireland news

Irish government urged to intervene on 'glaring discrimination' against northern RTÉ viewers

Popular RTÉ programmes include The Late Late Show

THE IRISH government has been urged to help address the “glaring discrimination” experienced by RTÉ viewers north of the border.

The latest appeal from SDLP MLA Justin McNulty comes on the back of mounting complaints about the national broadcaster’s cross-border coverage, including the geo-blocking of GAA major games involving Ulster teams and exclusion from competitions.

Last summer, RTÉ’s coverage of Tyrone's All-Ireland semi-final victory over Kerry was cut off during the first period of extra-time, while there were also complaints from viewers unable to tune into Olympics coverage via their Sky subscription.

The Co Armagh All-Ireland winner, who earlier this week raised the matter on RTÉ Radio’s Claire Byrne Show, said he had contacted the broadcaster’s director general about the issue.

He said that rather than offering "excuses or explanations”, RTÉ needed to work with the Irish government to “remove this glaring discrimination” and allow viewers and listeners in the north the same access to programming, completions and content as their counterparts in the Republic.

“It’s a complete farce that someone in Crossmaglen is blocked from accessing content and programming that is available to their friends and family in Castleblayney,” the Newry and Armagh MLA said.

Mr McNulty linked his call for better coverage to Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s Shared Island Unit and the increased post-Brexit momentum towards Irish unity.

“The conversation on Irish unity is growing, and there is responsibility on those of us who believe in a truly shared and inclusive Ireland to ensure that the content, programming, and broadcasting of our national broadcaster reflects the diversity of our people,” he said.

“Ignoring the six counties of the north won’t make them go away – it’s time that RTÉ stepped up and realised that it has responsibility to the entire island of Ireland.”

The SDLP representative cited his late party leader John Hume, who said a new Ireland would be “built by cooperation, not conquest”.

"To that end RTÉ has a crucially important role to play in emboldening all communities to move towards an exciting new Ireland that respects and has a place for the culture they hold dear," he said.

A statement from RTÉ addressed only Mr McNulty's concerns about northern viewers participation in competitions, such as those on The Late Late Show, which the broadcaster maintains "could be in breach of the Northern Ireland regulations".

 

"It has always been RTÉ’s position that if the law in Northern Ireland was changed that would provide a basis for RTÉ to review its legal advice in respect of the relevant competitions," the statement said.

 

A spokesperson for the taoiseach said it was a matter for RTÉ and the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

However, the department said: "Such operational issues are purely a matter for RTÉ and neither the department nor the minister has any role."

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