THE Irish community in Britain has reacted angrily to long delays in having their say on the future of the RTÉ longwave 252 service.
A survey into the use of the service is being carried out by researchers at Middlesex University on behalf of the Irish in Britain organisation – funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The deadline to request a survey is Friday, October 30 – but some readers of The Irish Post have waited weeks on a response from the research team.
There are several ways to complete the survey. It can be done online, or by calling 0208 411 5142 and leaving a name and address to receive a questionnaire with pre-paid envelope by post.
A third option is to leave your details and phone number on an answering service and request a call back option. Call backs are promised within 2-3 days but there are considerable delays with both the postal and call back options.
Manchester resident Denis McLaughlin, who is originally from Donegal, had a four week wait after contacting the survey hotline.
“She [the researcher] rang back after my first call and asked could I do the survey over the phone but I was busy that day so I asked her could I do it online and she said she would send me the link,” he said.
“I never heard back until last week, so it was three or four weeks when they sent out the forms in the post and I phoned at least five times to no response.”
Mr McLaughlin is one of a number of concerned members of the Irish community who got in touch with The Irish Post.
Despite the promise to fully examine the future of the RTÉ longwave service, it seems there have been severe delays and a lack of communication with the older Irish community who wish to respond by post.
The survey can be carried out quickly online – but Irish in Britain’s Michael Bourke confirmed to The Irish Post that the vast majority opted for the postal option.
“In total there have been about 3,500 responses across the postal, phone and online methods,” he said.
“There was probably something like 15 per cent, if even – probably less have done it online. Most have gone for the postal option.”
Though the longwave service has been providing a link to home for Irish people in Britain and some parts of Europe for decades, RTÉ planned to shut it down in January of this year in a cost-cutting move.
The survey provided the Irish community with fresh hope that they could have their say in the service’s future.
Kerry native Patrick McKenna also got in touch with The Irish Post about his experience trying to complete the survey.
“I rang on October 6 and left a message and got no response, I rang again on October 19 and on Monday of this week,” he said.
“I haven’t heard anything back, I’ve only got the answering service, so I haven’t spoken to anyone.”
Like many of the listeners of the RTÉ longwave service, Mr McKenna doesn't have access to the internet to complete the online survey.
“I'm over 80, I've been living here for 58 years. I don’t use the internet or any of that so if this goes I’ll have completely lost contact with Ireland,” he said.
“I won’t be ringing any more – I’m frustrated with it now,” he added.
The backlog, Mr Bourke says, is due to an unexpectedly large number of survey respondents opting for the postal option.
“A huge amount have opted for the postal option but anyone who has left a message will be responded to.”
Mr McLaughlin, who has been living in Britain for 43 years, was angry with his experience of the survey.
“This is a very important issue for the Irish in Britain and it’s just not acceptable,” he told The Irish Post. “People are demanding forms and for the forms to not be coming out is not right.”
The Irish Post has made several attempts to contact the Middlesex University department charged with managing the survey by phone and email, but is yet to get a response.
One Irish Post journalist requested the callback service offered but is also yet to hear from the University.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said that it is only involved in providing £20,000 worth of funding for the project.