WATCH: Dail hears Limerick Lyric FM staff 'going to be forced to opt for voluntary redundancy'

Fintan Walsh

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Fintan Walsh

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fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

LYRIC FM staff are going to be “forced to opt for voluntary redundancy” because they will not be able to afford the move to Cork or Dublin, the Dail has heard this week. 

A number of TDs from all over the country urged the Minister for Communication, Richard Bruton to support Lyric FM and help reverse RTE’s decision to remove it from Limerick. 

The hour-long debate, held in Dail Eireann this Thursday, was tabled by Limerick TD Jan O’Sullivan, after a leaked report revealed that RTE’s Limerick studio will be shut down in 2020. 

The Mid-West news service will continue to operate out of a new studio in Limerick, but a location has yet to be confirmed. 

Deputy O’Sullivan said that there is “no justification” for taking Lyric FM out of Limerick, and that doing so would be “destructive”. 

“I was very concerned when I heard Dee Forbes on the radio saying that of the voluntary redundancies that RTÉ is seeking, they are expecting a significant number of those to come from Lyric FM. In other words, people based in Limerick and who work for Lyric FM are going to be forced to opt for voluntary redundancy because they cannot afford to move to Dublin or Cork, or will not move their children out of their schools etc. That is wrong.”

This Monday, the Limerick Leader exclusively revealed that UL president Dr Des Fitzgerald had offered to accommodate Lyric on-campus, according to an email he sent to RTE director general, Dee Forbes on September 20. 

It is understood that the offer to accommodate the station is still on the table. 

Deputy O’Sullivan called on Minister Bruton to “insist that this option is explored positively”, adding that it is “a perfect home”. 

“It would be a profound blow to the artistic and cultural identity of Limerick if Lyric FM is removed. This is not and cannot be a fait accompli. I am asking the Minister and the Government to stand with us and tell RTÉ that it cannot take Lyric FM out of Limerick. It is as simple as that. We need firm commitments from the Minister.”

She added: “For the people who work in Lyric FM, for the people of Limerick who depend on that integration with Lyric FM, and for the health of our cultural life in the city, we really need a commitment that Lyric FM will stay in Limerick.”

Sinn Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan said that it was “disgraceful” that staff members learned of RTE’s plans through the Irish Times before being briefed. 

“That is a shocking way to treat the people of Limerick and staff members who have been loyal to RTÉ for a number of years,” he told the Dail. 

He said the Cornmarket Square studio would cost “a lot less” than RTE’s Ballsbridge facilities. 

Speaking about UL’s offer to RTE, he asked the Minister if he could explain RTE’s decision to “reject” the offer. 

“Did he speak to Dr Des Fitzgerald from the University of Limerick about the generous offer which would have kept Lyric FM in the city?”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said RTE’s decision to move Lyric FM out of Limerick is “fundamentally wrong”. 

“It is important for the country that Limerick rise. The benefits it saw in having Lyric FM based there were not confined to the broadcasting sector.”

He said placing the studio at its current location “was one of the few examples of life being put back in to the centre of Limerick city. 

“It is what we seek and need. It may make sense for the station to move to the university, given that the chamber orchestra is based there, but my preference is to keep it on a city centre site. We must bring life back to the centre of Limerick.”

People Before Profit TD, Richard Boyd Barrett said they will support the RTE Lyric workers “who are fighting to save their jobs and retain Lyric FM in Limerick. There should be no question of it being moved”. 

Fianna Fail TD, Niamh Smyth said it was “especially concerning” that RTE did not take up UL’s offer and “instead ignoring it until it became public”. 

“It was a visionary offer made to RTE by the president of the University of Limerick, Dr Des Fitzgerald, to offer Lyric FM a home on the campus of the university, but it fell on deaf ears. Lyric FM is a small strand of the RTÉ story and punches well above its weight in the context of its budget and what it produces. 

“It is also highly symbolic, not least for the arts and music. An explanation is required as to why the offer was first ignored and then rejected. It was a wonderful opportunity for Lyric FM to remain in a permanent and appropriate home in Limerick.”

In response to points raised about Lyric’s departure, Minister Bruton said that such issues “do not present to the Minister for sign-off. 

“Issues that are brought to me include where specific channels or radio stations are being changed or closed, the cessation of the Aertel service, the sale of the RTE Guideand so on. Some of those issues require explicit approval by the Minister and others do not. Several speakers questioned whether Dublin 4 is the right place for RTE headquarters either in respect of the scale of coverage or cost effectiveness. That question is worthy of consideration and assessment.”

An emergency council meeting is to be held at County Hall in Dooradoyle to discuss RTE Lyric’s departure from Limerick, this Friday at 2pm.