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Hurling commentary in English, French tennis in Irish

AS I watched with increasing despondency RTÉ’s coverage in English of the Munster hurling semi-final between Cork and Tipperary last Sunday, I switched over at one stage to TG4 where the men’s final of the French Open tennis tournament was being broadcast — as Gaeilge.

In a few weeks, the same station will be broadcasting the tennis championships from Wimbledon — as Gaeilge.

It’s 12 years since TnaG — now TG4 — went on air, but it’s still impossible to get live coverage on TV of the all-Ireland hurling and football championships.

This is because of an unseemly deal between the GAA, which is bound by its constitution to promote the Irish language, and RTÉ, which is obliged by statute to do likewise, and TV3 which, I’m sure, has a provision in its licence regarding the first official language.

That leaves Setanta — a purely commercial entity entitled to act as it sees fit. I propose two possible solutions.

1. The GAA has control over the broadcasting rights of its own games and, as such, it could create another package specifically for TG4 so that it need not go into competition with the cash-rich RTÉ, TV3 or Setanta.

The package would offer the broadcasting rights for all major GAA games of the summer as long as the commentary and associated analysis was in Irish only.

I feel sure this would barely affect the broadcasting packages already agreed with RTÉ, TV3 and Setanta, as TG4’s audiences would be insignificant in comparison to theirs.

It’s precisely because of the relative sizes of the audiences that TG4 can compete for the likes of Wimbledon and the French Open tennis broadcasting rights.

In that scenario, it’s a win-win situation for the GAA and the viewing public.

2. If that solution proves unworkable, Communications Minister Eamon Ryan could issue an order (like that which stipulates that a certain number of sporting events are available free to air) that the all-Ireland finals, major soccer tournaments, the Olympic Games, etc, be broadcast live in English and Irish.

While I support the rights of Irish speakers to seek official forms and documentation in Irish from the State — which has for so long denied such provision — I believe provision should be made for services to Irish speakers to be extended to include things from which we would take pleasure.

All well and good to be able to demand a motor tax disk as Gaeilge — but I doubt that by itself is going to create one more Irish speaker or enhance the life of a person who already is a daily speaker.

Concubhar Ó Liatháin

Cúil Aodha

Co Chorcaí


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