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Thursday 12 December 2019

'Riverdance' cost €65,000 to stage for Chinese visit

Colm Kelpie

A SPECIAL performance of 'Riverdance' put on for the visit of Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to Ireland cost taxpayers €65,000, the Irish Independent has learnt.

The show at the O'Reilly Theatre in Dublin's Belvedere College was specially requested by the Chinese embassy in Dublin for the three-day visit in February.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and four state agencies -- Tourism Ireland, Culture Ireland, the IDA and Bord Bia -- helped foot the bill for the hour-long show.

Some 400 people attended the special performance, according to figures obtained by the Irish Independent, including some under Freedom of Information.

They included the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore.

As well as members of the Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the bulk of those attending were people with business, cultural or educational interests in China. The Chinese embassy also invited contacts.

In addition to the 'Riverdance' performance, a banquet was held in Bunratty Castle at a cost of €8,323.70 for Mr Xi, who is expected to succeed the current president, Hu Jintao.

Some 106 people attended that event.

The Department of Foreign Affairs defended its spend, stating the high-level visit received "extensive and positive coverage in the Chinese media".

"The value of this coverage, in terms of promotion and advertising for Ireland, is significant and of a quality and level that cannot be bought," a spokeswoman said.

"It was the first item on China Central Television (CCTV) news and was carried on the front page of most of the papers, including 'People's Daily', 'China Daily' and the 'Beijing News'.

"There was also significant coverage of 'Riverdance' itself in the Chinese media at the time of the visit, including in the English language paper, 'China Daily'."

Tourism Ireland estimated the coverage in China of the visit would cost €346,000 in advertising in the Chinese market if broadcasting time or print space was bought.

"All major Chinese media outlets reported on the visit -- including the performance of 'Riverdance' and the vice president's visit to the Cliffs of Moher," a spokeswoman for the body said.

'Riverdance' has toured China five times since 2002, giving more than 150 live performances.

The show in the O'Reilly Theatre lasted one hour, with 28 performers in total taking part.

The bulk of the costs were borne by the Department of Foreign Affairs, which provided €35,000.

The IDA and Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board, each put up €10,000, while Tourism Ireland and Culture Ireland each provided €5,000.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said a cultural element is a common feature of programmes for visiting dignitaries.

A spokeswoman said a similar 'Riverdance' performance was put on for a previous high-level Chinese visit.

"'Riverdance' has had a major impact in China," she said.

The department said two memoranda of understanding were signed between Ireland and China during the visit.

Mr Xi is widely tipped to become China's next president later this year.

Irish Independent

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