Irish-language TV coverage in the North of Ireland took another faltering step forward yesterday when Ireland’s Irish language television station, TG4, began broadcasting a test signal from Divis Mountain on the outskirts of Belfast.
However, it emerged this week that TG4 is being forced to broadcast on a channel which will require the purchase of a non-standard television aerial.
Provision was made for Irish-language broadcasts under the 1998 Good Friday agreement. The extension of coverage to the Six Counties -- opposed by unionists on sectarian grounds -- has taken seven years to reach even a preliminary stage.
Programme transmissions are not expected to begin for some time. Technical difficulties related to the non-standard broadcast protocol have been blamed for the continuing delay.
Gearoid O Caireallain, a former president of Conradh na Gaeilge, said he was surprised at the latest delay in the campaign to make Irish-language broadcasting widely available in the North.
“It beggars belief that, in this day and age, we can’t arrange to have a signal sent from Connemara to Belfast but we can get CNN across the world,” he said.
“It seems that there are political games being played. It seems that somebody somewhere is making things difficult. While the letter of the Good Friday agreement is being applied, the spirit is not.”
Irish language advocates have proven submissive about their second-class status.
Maire Killoran, head of the Belfast-based Irish Language Broadcast Fund, insisted supporters of TG4 would not be put off by the cost of an additional aerial.
“If you want to watch the channel, you will make the effort and go and buy any aerial,” she said.