Friday 24 November 2017

Craic agus ceol as TG4 celebrates 20 years as the nation's 'súil eile'

Host Paidi O Lionaird. Photo: Andrew Downes
Host Paidi O Lionaird. Photo: Andrew Downes
Kirsty Blake Knox

Kirsty Blake Knox

"We're 150 miles from the Dáil and from Dublin - that's our súil eile," deputy CEO of TG4 Pádhraic Ó Ciardha said.

Last night, TG4 marked two decades on air with a live concert broadcast, 'TG4XX Beo'.

TG4 presenters Mairéad Ní Chuaig, Maire Teresa Ni Dhubhghaill and Fiona Ní Fhlatharta attend a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the station. Photo: Andrew Downes
TG4 presenters Mairéad Ní Chuaig, Maire Teresa Ni Dhubhghaill and Fiona Ní Fhlatharta attend a party to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the station. Photo: Andrew Downes

Shot over several locations, the programme was hosted by Páidí Ó Lionáird and Máire Treasa Ní Dhubhghaill.

As promised, there was plenty of 'craic agus ceol' and a healthy dollop of nostalgia. Guests, including President Michael D Higgins, reflected on the station's evolution from small station to key player.

Launched on Halloween night in 1996, Teilifís na Gaeilge has become an integral part of Ireland's broadcasting landscape. "There was a lot of doubt and scepticism in some quarters when we started," Mr Ó Ciardha said. "But we have grown and come of age. "TG4 has helped modernise and rebrand the Irish language. The 20th celebrations are a real milestone."

The station has always possessed a certain dynamism - many of its fledgling presenters, such as Síle Seoige and Dáithí Ó Sé, have gone on to become household names.

Hothouse Flowers Fiachna O Bhraonain and Liam O Maonlai. Photo: Andrew Downes
Hothouse Flowers Fiachna O Bhraonain and Liam O Maonlai. Photo: Andrew Downes

Home-produced shows have pushed social boundaries. Soap Ros na Rún, for example, featured the first gay kiss in a TV drama in Ireland.

The show also featured a cameo from English raconteur Stephen Fry, who played the part of a bemused tourist.

Station bosses have an eye for talent - and have secured strong international imports.

'The Wire', 'Breaking Bad', 'The Bridge' and 'Borgen' were all aired first on TG4.

TG4 also has a reputation for its extensive sports coverage. It was the first to broadcast ladies football, which they described as a 'spectacular indigenous sport', and holds exclusive live coverage of Rugby Pro 12, Wimbledon, Tour de France, and women's rugby.

The broadcaster has also coined rugby terminology as Gaeilge - Jerry Flannery, Luke Fitzgerald and Marcus Horan often talk of the 'síneadh amach' (line-out). "I think one of my proudest moments with TG4 was in 1999 when we had got the rights for The Guinness PRO12," Mr Ó Ciardha said.

"I was sitting in Kiely's pub and watched the barmen tune all the TVs onto TG4. "Watching the high cathedral of southside rugby being converted to TG4 was special. It was a great moment for us."

It's hard to compete with the likes of 'Prime Time' and 'Tonight With Vincent Browne', but in 2011 TG4 made history when it broadcast the first 'General Election Leaders' Debate' televised as Gaeilge.

Home-produced formatted TV shows have garnered cult followings; 'Paisean Faisean', 'Underdogs', and 'Feirm Factor', were compulsive viewing for many.

Over the past 20 years, TG4 has won more than 1,200 awards at film and TV festivals at home and abroad.

Irish Independent

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