The decision by Raidió na Gaeltachta not to have a Mayo correspondent was criticised by the man who previously held the post. He feels that the Mayo Gaeltacht is not high enough on the Irish language station’s agenda.
Mairtín Mac Donnchadha retired last Wednesday after 25 years working with RnaG, ten years of which he spent as their Mayo Correspondent. He told The Mayo News that he believes the decision by RnaG not to replace him is a mistake, but is consistent with the cutbacks forced on the station in recent years.
“The Mayo office in Castlebar is closed but having one person to cover Mayo was ridiculous to start with. That is an indication of where the Mayo Gaeltacht is on the station’s radar. While the listenership in Mayo was low, the output from Mayo is quality. It was the only opportunity to hear the native Mayo speakers and a dialect that enriches the station.
“It is difficult to cover Mayo from Castlebar. If you want to go to Blacksod, you are talking about a 120 mile round trip. What are the chances of doing that from Casla when you are doing another 100 miles? It is impossible for a broadcaster to say they are in touch with the people without being in the midst of the people. It was difficult for one person to do it from the centre of the county – they haven’t a hope when doing it from another 100 miles away.
“It is another [Irish-language] support that will no longer be there. RnaG has been the centre of creating a network within the Gaeltacht, and when you don’t have that forum then those networks become irrelevant,” he explained.
In recent years, RnaG has seen its budget cut, and up to 30 per cent of their staff has been let-go and not replaced. Mairtín feels that RTÉ has no feeling of the service provided by RnaG, and that it is viewed as a ‘thorn in their side’.
“I don’t think RnaG is a high priority for RTÉ. RnaG totally depends on RTÉ and the way they are cutting things at the moment, it has come to a stage which is detrimental to the whole service. RnaG has only ever had a skeleton staff compared to the rest of RTÉ so cutting it back by 30 per cent means they haven’t a hope of providing the kind of service they had.”
The decision by RnaG not to replace Mairtín Mac Donnchadha was raised at a recent meeting of Mayo VEC, who agreed to write a letter to both RTÉ and the Minister for the Gaeltacht urging them to keep a presence in the Castlebar studio.