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Radio presenters slapped on wrist for talking about 'Irish language Taliban'

FM104′s Phoneshow included comments that Irish-speakers were “nutters”.

Conradh na Gaeilge and USI students protesting for Irish language rights in 2013
Conradh na Gaeilge and USI students protesting for Irish language rights in 2013
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

THE BROADCAST WATCHDOG has partially backed a complaint that FM104′s nightly phone-in show stigmatised Irish speakers as fanatics like the Taliban.

In a complaint to the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI), Muireann Ní Mhóráin complained Chris Barry’s Phoneshow from last June caused her “great offence” as an Irish speaker.

She said that was because the presenters – Barry and his then-colleague Thomas Crosse – and callers repeatedly said Irish was “rammed down your neck at school” and that Irish-speakers “piss people off”, with many labelled “nutters” and “fanatical”.

Ní Mhóráin, the head of state agency An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG), which provides support to Irish-language schools, complained the programme was neither objective nor impartial.

She said it carried the message that people who worked in Irish as she did were “just being bloody awkward”.

Ní Mhóráin also took offence at a contributor’s comment that it was “a middle-class thing” for parents to send their children to Irish schools and they did it because they “think they’re higher than other people”.

She said she went to an all-Irish school, as did her children, but didn’t believe they were “higher” than others.

Students Protests for Language Rights Conradh na Gaeilge and USI students protesting before Christmas 2013 for language rights Source: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

In defence

FM104 didn’t respond directly to her complaint, but later told the BAI the comments about Irish being “rammed down your neck at school” implied the truism that students currently had no choice but to learn their native tongue.

The station said the presenters balanced the programme with text messages in favour of compulsory Irish lessons and Barry also supported those who enjoyed the language – just not as a mandatory school subject.

It was also clear that comments about some Irish speakers being “insane” were only about a fanatical minority, it said.

FM104 also defended the use of the term “Irish language Taliban” which had previously been used to describe some members of Conradh na Gaeilge and their protests outside the Dáil.

In its decision, published today, the BAI said the show presented a range of views and “the robust nature of the discussion” was in line with audience expectations for a phone-in show.

But it partially upheld the complaint, adding that Barry “consistently interrupted contributors who did not agree with the editorial position of the programme” – that mandatory Irish education was unhelpful.

That included labelling one person “an awkward son-of-a-bitch” and making critical comments about callers after they finished their contributions.

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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