Jude Collins

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Maggie, the mighty defender of RTÉ

Ah, how we’ve missed you, Maggie! And how good it is to know your voice will soon echo again around the near-empty chamber of the House of Commons.  Dear Maggie Ritchie, erstwhile leader of the SDLP, has tabled a Commons motion in the hope of getting support from other MPs. She clearly means business.

About what? Why, about RTÉ plans to close its London office once the Olympics are over.  That office, she says, has “an illustrious record of service” and has kept Irish viewers informed about British economic, political and cultural life. AND it’s contributed to the peaceful resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict. AND it is “vital to fulfil the vision of future British-Irish relations”/

EH? Here, pull the other one, Maggie. Every time I see Brian O’Connell with his suitably-Anglicized end-consonants coming on-screen, I reach for the remote. But let’s be fair here. Unbeknownst to herself, Maggie has in fact raised an important issue.

Why do we  need Irish reports on things happening elsewhere in the world? The question presents itself particularly on BBC Radio Ulster/Raidio Uladh.  There’ll have been a polished, professional report done by the London BBC on some major story; then RU/RU  will insist on contacting somebody from Newtownards who lives within fifty miles of the event and ask them what they experienced. Why? What has the Newtownards native added to our understanding of the tsunami, or the airplane crash, or the political crisis?

The fact is, we get as much information about what’s going on in Britain as we need from the BBC and ITV  and Channel 4 in London.  If Maggie thinks that except we get an RTÉ angle on things, we’re missing out, she’d want to visit Specsavers. RTÉ’s take on events across the water invariably takes the same line as the British TV networks. An Irish take on events would be another thing entirely. If RTÉ were to report matters from a truly Irish perspective, pointing up the difference between British interests and Irish interests, focusing on the true implications of events for Ireland, then indeed I’d rally to Maggie’s side and urge her on. Unfortunately, neither BBC Northern Ireland nor RTÉ seems capable of thinking for themselves; what we get is a watered-down, more amateurish version of the British report. There is indeed a need for Irish audiences to have an Irish take on British events. But it ain’t going to come through the present RTÉ office in London and it certainly ain’t gonna come from the ‘r’ –softening Brian O’Connell.

Put on the red jacket and go for a walk in one of the Royal Parks instead, Maggie. 


  1. So now people are to be criticised on their accents!Should Brian O 'Connell in the time remaining to him take elocution lessons?What accent should he adopt to be acceptable to you?Presumably your more serious point is the content of what he says rather than the way he says it.But then since the Presidential election you've never been a huge fan of R T E.Presumably Margaret Ritchies motion is a ritual exercise with no serious hope of success.Politicians do like to keep in the public eye!

    1. Jude doesn't like the BBC or UTV. He has no time for RTE.
      Not a fan of the BelTel or the News Letter and no love lost for the venerable Irish News.
      Thank god for the Andytown News, or Jude wouldn't have any idea what's going on!

  2. Gio - wrong (again). Some things the BBC does superbly (coronations, for example). UTV does decent job most days at 6.00 pm., comparatively speaking. RTÉ's Frontline with Pat Kenny is good most weeks. The BelTel I rarely look at and when I do (online) I just feel depressed. The News Letter? I thought we were talking about newspapers. Oh, and I don't take my ideas from the Andytown News. I give mine to them.

  3. Anon 8:52 - why shouldn't a broadcaster be criticised for his/her accent? It's on the basis of voice and appearance (among other things) that people get hired as broadcasters. I find O'Connell's slightly-pompous hybrid a pain to listen to. Is that all right with you? Or are there things we mustn't criticise/comment on?

  4. Jude,it's your blog,so you're clearly entitled to criticise who and whatever you like.However I think we can distinguish between a broadcasters accent and what they actually say.I understand Eamonn Mallie is originally from South Armagh although you would never guess from his current accent.While I may find his accent slightly bizzare ,I can still appreciate his journalistic qualities.Of course he is primarily a radio journalist,so his appearance is not that crucial.

  5. I agree, Anon 1:36 - we can distinguish between content and form. But both matter, and in fact an accent can sometimes make it very hard to focus on content. Accent is also bound up with identity - most people I know are scornful of those who abandon their accent and affect that of their 'betters' - hence the jokes about a chreche being a car accident on the Malone Road. Personally I think O'Connell's accent is jarring and his content vapid.

  6. Jude
    Coronations? Talk about damning with faint praise. And you can think of nothing to praise in the Irish News?. It is the best of the locals now.
    The Telegraph I agree is awful.
    At least the Andytown News is good for a laugh (not your bits though!).

  7. The most amazing thing about RTÉ is that it uses British sources for commentary on GB, and also France Italy, and USA etc. Obviously it's a cash deal paid to ITV or BBC but it is embarassing. Is there no-one except an Englishman/woman to advise us on the US pres election? Would we all find an American too hard to understand -not to mention one of thousands of politics-wise IRish in Amerciaca-, or would someone from England always be better? And then we get to Pat Kenny telling us that the book will cost 'GB£20 or whatever that is in euro'

    Still nothing beats Radio Ulster not mentioning that Leinster had also won a rugby semi-final. 'Are you from Leinster? the great David Dunseith's sad 'BBC Ulster 70s stepford wife' replacement asks a nationalist complaining about the astonishing whitewash where the producers didn't want to acknowledge that the Heino European finalé would be an All-Ireland final

    It reminds me of a visit ot Maguires' Castle in Enniskillen, which still proudly flys the flag of St. George because an English King thought that would be appropriate for ever despite the wishes of the majority. The visitor diary gives addresses and nationality, and almost all the northerners are 'British;. When I mentioned ironically that 'there doesn't seem to be many Irish visitors' (implying that maybe the focus should change), I was answered wth 'oh no, we had some people from Dublin only last week.'