TG4 has an acknowledged reputation for award-winning content on Irish historical and culturally significant topics. Our challenge in this special year of commemoration is to cast new light, not just on the 1916 Rising itself but on the events, personalities and movements that shaped that decade and to chronicle the tumultuous period that followed it.
During 2016, we will broadcast award-winning series from our archive as well as first-run especially commissioned new content on the theme of the Rising and the Birth and Growth of a nation. This centenary output comprises scores of important and entertaining TV programmes – factual, dramatic, musical and sporting content.
Two newly commissioned drama series that are inspired by the Rising will offer an alternative viewpoint. Éirí Amach Amú brings an element of time-travel to the event as three Dublin men from our own era find themselves transported to Dublin’s Sackville Street on Easter Monday 1916 – with some unlikely results.
Eipic (begins 4 Feb) is a slightly more oblique contemporary musical comedy ‘take’ on the Rising as it chronicles the efforts of a bunch of rural teenagers in 2016 to start their own musical revolution as they take over the local (closed) Post Office to try to make a statement of their own, in music and in Irish.
TG4’s factual output this year will provide viewers with a wide range of informative and entertaining content that highlights some of the many threads that led to the Rising and the War of Independence and Civil War that followed and to the foundation and the building of the nation in the decades that followed.
TG4 has devoted two documentary slots every week from January until end of April to commemorate 2016. The dedicated Wednesday evening prime-time slot (7.30pm) will concentrate on the Rising itself and the personalities and movements that brought it about. This slot will be headlined by TG4’s award-winning hour-long series of profiles of each of the leaders of the Easter Rising executed in the immediate aftermath Seachtar na Cásca/Seachtar Dearmadta. The schedule is as follows
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In addition to those programmes that deal specifically with 1916, TG4 is also dedicating another prime time slot, Tuesday nights 9.30pm to a series of major documentaries and drama documentaries that focus on some of the major events/controversies and sometimes neglected happenings that shed a new light on the period itself and on the 100 years since the Rising. These include the unlikely court case of An Trucailín Donn –in which a Gaeltacht man was prosecuted for having his name, contrary to the law, painted as Gaeilge on his donkey-cart. Pádraig Pearse defended (unsuccessfully) in his only court-room appearance as a barrister but while the court case was lost, the court of public opinion was overwhelming in its disapproval and the Gaelic League had a major publicity triumph (Tues 12 February)
The birth and growth of a nation is a multi-faceted and complex process. TG4’s wide-ranging factual and drama output profiles many of the key figures and addresses some of the main political, cultural, gender and other issues that arose (or bedevilled) the Rising and succeeding decades. Cumann na mBan (2 Feb) was a key component of the Rising itself and women like the pioneering doctor Kathleen Lynn (23 Feb) also made a huge contribution to the struggle for important freedoms that did not arrive with political independence.
The Free State’s decision to execute certain Republicans like Erskine Childers (19 Jan) are still controversial and had a far-reaching impact. But Ireland’s story is not just a political one. The role of sporting figures like legendary Irish, but Welsh-born boxer Jim Driscoll in mollifying anti-Irish feeling in Britain (26 Jan) had their own effect on how our story unfolded. One of the most enigmatic figures to emerge from the War of Independence and a key figure in Irish politics in the middle of the 20th century Ernest Blythe (15 April) is also profiled – there was a lot more to this complex character than just his notorious 1924 Budget decision to cut the old-age pension.
Frank Sheehy Skeffington (8 March) was a well-connected journalist who was an eye witness to key moments in Irish history. A pacifist, he was also a key influencer on many important political and literary figures who was cruelly murdered at the very start of the Rising
The new Free State was born of strife but had to undertake some huge projects as it strove to take its place among the nations of the world. None of these projects was bigger than the Shannon Scheme to design, build and commission a massive hydro-electric generating plant at Ardnacrusha, north of Limerick. Gineadóir an Stáit (9 Feb) tells this epic story.
In addition to these mid-week slots, TG4’s programme-schedule will feature 1916 in other aspects too. The 1916 Centenary falls on the exact date of the GAA’s National League Finals in Croke Park that will be televised live. TG4 is working with the GAA on a major event at that historic venue on the day to mark the occasion.
The Rising leaders included many literary and artistic figures and TG4’s arts output will reflect this with profiles of Máire Mhac an tSaoi herself a daughter of the Rising veteran and major 20th century Irish politician, Seán McEntee. In conjunction with An Chomhairle Ealaíon/The Arts Council, we have commissioned 8 short films on the theme of 100 years of Irish art (15 March).
Our annual Gradam Ceoil TG4 awards (date) in traditional music in mid-February will also contain a special 1916-related award to mark the Centenary.