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RTE cuts crime drama costs in ITV deal

CASH-strapped RTE has enlisted financial help from ITV in order to recommission its home-produced series Single Handed for another run.

The Herald has learned the Irish crime drama will return to the small screen next year for a longer stint, after RTE sold a 50pc share of the Touchpaper Television production to the British channel.

Single Handed first aired as a two-part special on RTE in 2007 and was an immediate ratings winner, prompting a second two-part series, Single Handed: The Stolen Child -- which aired in 2008 -- to be commissioned.

A third instalment, called Single Handed: The Drowning Man was later given the go-ahead by RTE chiefs and aired last April, again recording impressive rating figures.

Written by Barry Simner, who previously worked on hit ITV series The Vice, the programme was originally inspired by investigations of garda corruption in Donegal by the Morris tribunal.

ITV bought all three two-part episodes last summer and showed it as one stand-alone series, marking the first time that a UK broadcaster had bought an Irish drama for broadcast during a prime time slot.

But instead of cashing in on the success of the rural drama, which stars Owen McDonnell as officer Jack Driscoll, by retaining complete ownership of the series, RTE bosses have instead signed up to co-produce all future episodes of the hit drama with ITV.

The programme was deemed a huge success with UK viewers, with over four million viewers tuning in for its premiere last year.

The cast are expected to return to the west of Ireland to begin filming on the future episodes of the show in the coming weeks, with the second series expected to air in 2011.

Laura Mackie, director of drama commissioning at ITV, explained: "It means viewers still get quality shows that don't look threadbare."

The 50/50 collaboration marks one of RTE'S first with ITV, after they began selling their productions to the station last year.

Two other RTE dramas were also bought by STV, ITV's Scottish franchise, last year -- Proof, a thriller about a corrupt Taoiseach, and Damage, which deals with the aftermath of a violent rape in Dublin.