'Unprecedented' TV spectacular for 1916 centenary cost €2.5m
Almost €2.5m was spent on RTE's Centenary concert which aired on Bank Holiday Easter Monday and lasted 85 minutes, the Herald can reveal.
Figures released from RTE under the Freedom of Information Act show the production to mark the Centenary of the Easter Rising cost taxpayers a total of €2.46m.
Airing on March 28 and broadcast live from Bord Gais Energy Theatre, the one-off television event told the story of modern Ireland through music, dance and song.
While the finale of the Easter weekend celebrations was produced by RTE, it was funded by Ireland 2016/Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
Ireland 2016 was the programme set up by the Government to mark the Centenary of the 1916 Rebellion with thousands of events here and overseas, with particular focus on the Easter week.
When asked to comment on the €2.5m expenditure, an RTE spokesperson said that it was a "television event of unprecedented importance."
She said that close to 700 people were involved in Centenary, between cast and production crew. The show featured 450 on-screen performers including 21 choirs, 24 dancers, six aerial dancers and nine actors, along with the RTE Concert Orchestra.
"Innovative and state-of-the-art, the programme was the finale to the Easter Weekend commemorations and close to half a million viewers watched on RTE One," they said.
Broken up into 18 different chapters, it was available for viewing worldwide on RTE's Player for 30 days afterwards.
Featuring Irish stars like Imelda May, Jack L, Gavin James and Danny O'Reilly, it was met with widespread acclaim from viewers and described as "the new Riverdance", thanks to its high-quality production values.
The department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht also defended the high cost of the TV show, saying that it was a "once in a century event."
"Centenary was one of the major flagship events of the Ireland 2016 calendar and in particular, of Easter Weekend 2016," said a department spokesperson, who added that the funding provided by the government for the extravaganza was a "significant investment in arts and culture."
"Major television events of this scale require significant investment," they said.
They further pointed out by way of comparison that the 2012 Olympics in London cost approximately €31m.
Among those who attended Centenary was President Michael D Higgins, who spoke about the importance of the event in his speech.
He said the commemoration events were all about remembering and celebrating the actions of those who fought and died so that future generations might live as citizens of a free and independent state.