One of the many things that the British and Irish have in common is our lousy, capricious weather. Discussion of its whims facilitates small talk in shops, elevators and waiting rooms across both islands each day. The BBC brilliantly facilitates this with its slick weather bulletins and amenable, knowledgeable presenters. Yet while Lerwick -- population 22,000 -- is routinely shown on the BBC's lovely UK forecast maps, Dublin -- population 1.8 million -- is omitted.
The BBC may protest with some justification that Dublin is capital of another sovereign nation, and therefore beyond its remit as the UK's national broadcaster. Yet I am willing to bet that on any given day there are far more BBC licence payers in Dublin than there are in Lerwick, or Cowes or indeed any of the other small towns routinely shown. I'm from Ireland, but I live on the Isle of Wight, so I care about the Cowes weather, but Dublin is of vastly greater relevance to the average Brit. How else will all those Dublin-bound hen and stag parties know whether to bring a coat?
The BBC has Dublin's weather data on its website, but it chooses to omit this from its main UK weather bulletins, watched by millions each day. Yet Ireland's national broadcaster, RTE, has always featured Belfast on its weather maps, despite it being in another jurisdiction. Why does the BBC not reciprocate such meteorological generosity? If there are fears of being accused of inaccurately claiming Dublin as being once again part of the UK by including it the UK forecast, then just shade it grey to distinguish it. Yet I don't think RTE has been accused of disrespecting national boundaries by stating the sunniness, or otherwise, of Belfast.
Ireland is one of the UK's biggest export markets -- far bigger than China and similar in scale to France. £1 billion in two-way trade happens each week. The European headquarters of many of the world's leading tech and pharmaceutical companies are in Dublin. That means a huge amount of business travel and small talk on conference calls: "Oh I see it's a stormy morning there in Dublin." The BBC could help oil the wheels of Anglo-Irish commerce.
The London to Dublin air route is one of the busiest in the world. Let alone the plethora of daily Dublin-bound flights from cities such as Southampton, Cardiff, Glasgow, Edinburgh. Every day, thousands of BBC licence payers wake up in the UK and end up in Dublin. They'd like to know the weather. Given our southwesterly prevailing winds, the weather in Dublin is also usually a good guide as to what's coming to Liverpool and Manchester a few hours later.
The BBC also has a responsibility to inform its Northern Irish licence payers. 1.8 million people live in Northern Ireland and many have family and friends who live, work or study in Dublin -- some even commute to Dublin, an hour's drive down the motorway. The 2011 census shows that 407,000 Irish-born people live in the UK. Taking an average household size of 2.3 people, Irish-born licence payers contribute well over £25 million in BBC licence fees annually. Sky and cable subscribers in the Irish republic contribute further to the BBC's coffers. In addition, about 10 percent of the UK population have at least one Irish grandparent, and so over 6.5 million UK residents are eligible for Irish passports and will have family links to Ireland. People want to know if their great-aunt is getting rained on.
Taking all this evidence together, the undeniable fact is that not just thousands, but perhaps millions, of UK TV licence payers have a real interest in knowing the weather in Dublin on any given day -- vastly more so than are concerned about the precipitation in Lerwick, Cowes and Abergavenny.
It's true that the same could be said of Paris, but geography dictates that Paris does not routinely feature on the BBC's main UK weather bulletins each evening whereas Dublin does -- yet it is a blank. The BBC should respond to the real interests of own licence payers, and do its bit for Anglo-Irish relations, by putting Dublin on the map.