The flagship chat show of Ireland’s state-run TV network sparked outrage when a map of Ireland showed the Six Counties of the north of Ireland cut off.
A ‘can opener’ map of the 26 County state was shown in isolation, without any indication of the rest of the island. The map was broadcast prominently during a segment with a TV doctor on national health outcomes.
Social media networks lit up with furious commentary. Anger was its greatest in the north of Ireland, where many were dismayed that the peace process had not ensured a recognition of northern nationalists by the state broadcaster, RTE.
RTE received 203 official complaints regarding the map, along with a further 33 unofficial complaints, but issued no apology. It insisted the inflammatory map was based on a graphic design of the 26 County census results.
However, Sinn Fein branded it as “deeply offensive” and “rank partitionism”.
Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald wrote: “What is this? What is this all about? Who took it upon themselves to mutilate the map of Ireland? And why? That depiction is a geographic aberration - not a map of our island.”
Sinn Fein MP Paul Maskey wrote: “It’s bad enough that RTE prevent Irish citizens in the North from tuning into cheer on our national soccer & rugby teams, but now they deny our existence entirely.
“Let us be absolutely clear about this, from Belfast to Cork, Derry to Dundalk - Ireland is 32 Counties. That cannot be revised regardless of how hard the establishment try and do so. This shocking level of ignorance cannot go unchallenged. Absolutely shameful from RTE.”
The furore came as RTE admitted only a tiny percentage of people in the Six Counties are able to access its digital radio stations.
Under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, moves were put in place to extend transmission of TG4, the Irish language TV station.
But RTE’s current digital radio reach has only limited coverage in border area, via a transmitter in the Cooley Mountains in County Louth.
Motorists travelling on the M1 from Dublin towards Belfast report signals dropping almost immediately after crossing the border, leading many to believe that a blocking system is in place.
Sinn Fein’s Barry McElduff said the European Union should intervene to address “unacceptable” cross-border digital radio coverage.
“Ireland is a small country with two systems of everything including telecommunications provision, and all the problems that causes for people in the border corridor,” he said.
“It is high time that, with the help of the EU, these telecommunications problems are addressed and overcome.
“In 2017 it is not acceptable that the authorities are unable to address this.”