EXCLUSIVE: University of Limerick offered to accommodate RTE Lyric FM on-campus 

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Email:

fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

EXCLUSIVE: University of Limerick offered to accommodate RTE Lyric FM on-campus 

President of UL Dr Des Fitzgerald urged RTE boss Dee Forbes not to close the city centre station. See the full text of his letter below

THE PRESIDENT of UL wrote to RTE’s director general, offering to “help sustain” Lyric FM and accommodate the station on campus, in late September, the Leader can exclusively reveal. 

Last week, RTE revealed that it will be shutting down its Limerick studios in 2020, and will split Lyric FM between Cork and Dublin, a move which has been criticised by politicians, public and staff. 

Around 20 Limerick staff had been anxious to hear of RTE’s cost-saving measures, following a Prime Time feature, on September 12, that revealed Montrose was considering Lyric FM’s future. And just a week after this programme aired, UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald wrote to RTE’s director general Dee Forbes, pictured below, appealing to the broadcaster to reverse a decision to close Lyric FM.

In an email on September 20, he said since he assumed the role of president, he had been in discussion with RTE about accommodating Lyric within the University Concert Hall. “I did this because I believe the station should be cherished at a time when our national orchestras are under threat. I did it also because I believe young people and in particular the students at UL should have the opportunity to hear classical music,” he wrote. 

In his email which was sent prior to last week's annoucement that the station will continue to operate between Cork and Dublin, Dr Fitzgerald said he was “surprised” to hear of the station’s closure “although I was aware that a move to UL was unlikely”. 

“Aside from our own disappointment, I was shocked to see that the only national station for classical and indeed a wide range of music was to be shuttered.”

He said that it is “pure vandalism to abolish an entity that over 28 years has brought classical music to life for so many”. 

Dr Fitzgerald concluded: “I do hope that this decision can be reversed and indeed UL would like to help sustain the station. If this action continues, then the current board will become known for the damage it has done and not for the good it does.”

When contacted about this correspondence, a spokesperson for RTE said that consultations “will begin shortly with all staff affected by the changes as announced today” and that  it will continue to provide a Mid-West news service in Limerick, though they cannot comment on the location.

Dear Dee,

Since I assumed the role as President of the University of Limerick, I have been in discussion  with RTÉ about accommodating RTÉ Lyric in UL and indeed we had identified a location within the University Concert Hall. I did this because I believe the station should be cherished at a time when our national orchestras are under threat. I did it also because I believe young people and in particular the students at UL should have the opportunity to hear classical music. We widely promote our engagement with the Irish Chamber Orchestra for the same reason, for example by funding a joint MA in orchestral performance with the ICO and supporting their Sing Out with Strings, which brings orchestral performance to schools. This is part of a wider plan to support the arts, for example by providing the opportunity for young performers to develop their art in the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance.

 I was surprised to hear then of the closure of the radio station, although I was aware that a move to UL was unlikely. Aside from our own disappointment, I was shocked to see that the only national station for classical and indeed a wide range of music was to be shuttered. There’s no doubt that along with politics and the press, broadcasting has adopted a populist agenda and that is arguably excusable given the deficit in RTÉ’s budget. However, it’s is pure vandalism to abolish an entity that over 28 years has brought classical music to life for so many. This may seem to be overstated but a grotesque narrative that eschews art and culture now dominates. Be clear that the university supports the performing arts widely, and not just classical music - including modern music and dance, visual arts and multimedia. We likewise support creative writing, including poetry. But the university cannot do this on its own, this needs to be a national agenda, so that we continue to promote the arts from a young age and help develop an appreciation of the wider arts.

I can hear the argument that RTÉ Lyric is pandering to an elite, but consider the rationale of having Irish language radio and television - is it so different?

I do hope that this decision can be reversed and indeed UL would like to help sustain the station. If this action continues, then the current board will become known for the damage it has done and not for the good it does.

Dr. Des Fitzgerald,
Uachtarán / President,