Concern at RTÉ rugby move

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Foyle Sinn Féin MLA Raymond McCartney has said he is disappointed that RTÉ will not be screening the Irish rugby Autumn internationals in the North after next year.

Mr McCartney said the move by the Republic’s national broadcaster runs contrary to the Good Friday Agreement, but RTÉ said the decision has been prompted by Irish rugby’s governing body, the IRFU.

The Foyle MLA said; “My colleague Sandra McLellan TD has been in touch with RTÉ about its decision and received confirmation that the signal will be blocked to the Six Counties as a result of a contractual arrangement which it entered into with the IRFU.

“I find it incredible that the Irish national broadcaster would even countenance entering into a commercial contract that would exclude a sizeable section of the Irish people from access to its coverage of major sporting fixtures.

“I also believe that it runs contrary to the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement which promised increased accessibility to national cultural broadcasting.”

Mr McCartney claimed the move will deny up to 30 per cent of Irish rugby fans the opportunity to watch the games on RTÉ.

“From 2014 people living in the North of Ireland will have to subscribe to Sky Sport if they wish to watch international rugby matches as the BBC has lost the rights to broadcast the games and RTÉ has entered a contractual agreement covering the rights in the southern state only.

“The international rugby team is an all island team. The team’s mixture in terms of culture and religion reflects the island’s diversity and it is an excellent example of the positive role that sport can play.

“It beggars belief that a thirty-two county organisation such as the IRFU would sign a contract without first examining the potential negative consequences for a large section of its fans,” he said.

A spokesperson for RTÉ said; “RTÉ does look to broadcast its sporting coverage in Northern Ireland however sometimes this isn’t possible due to existing contractual or commercial reasons. Under the new contract awarded by the IRFU, RTÉ will be required to block out our coverage of the International games on Freeview in Northern Ireland from 2014 - 2017. RTÉ were awarded the rights for the Republic of Ireland only by the IRFU.”