International take-up on Rising documentary ‘phenomenal’

Three-part TV series ‘1916’ mostly funded by University of Notre Dame in US

1916 is a three-part documentary giving a comprehensive overview of the Easter Rising, looking at the impact it had both here and around the world and the crucial role played by Irish America in the lead up to the rebellion. Pics: RTE


RTÉ’s documentary on the Easter Rising 1916 has been sold to 120 television stations in the United States and to the BBC.

The $3 million (€2.6 million) three-part series begins on RTÉ One on Wednesday night. It was mostly funded by benefactors from the University of Notre Dame in the United States along with RTÉ and Section 481 funding.

The documentary is narrated by the actor Liam Neeson.

Neeson has said he was not aware of the Easter Rising going to school in Ballymena, Co Antrim.

Neeson told RTÉ radio he first came across photographs of the signatories of the Proclamation when attending the Irish juvenile boxing championships in Dublin in 1966. “I hadn’t a clue who they were were. It lodged with me and got into my soul. In school we did not learn about our Irish history.

“It was really only when I was at Queen’s University Belfast that I educated myself as to the history of my country. The series puts the Easter Rising in a broader, more international context than has ever been done, and shows how it inspired similar movements around the world. What attracted me most was that the series also focuses on the personal stories of those involved. These stories are very human and powerful.”

Series creator Professor Bríona Nic Dhiarmada, the chair of Irish Language and Literature at Notre Dame, said the goal of 1916 is to “give history back to the people. It is history told in a very intimate way”.

To date 120 affiliates of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in the United States have agreed to screen it along with BBC4, which will show an edited version of it. It has also been sold to television stations in Australia, Canada, Finland, Spain, Slovenia and several countries in South America. Interest has been expressed in other countries too.

“The Easter Rising was part of a great international movement. I always had it in my head that this would travel. The take up has been phenomenal,” Prof Nic Dhiarmada has said.

1916 is on RTÉ One on Wednesday night at 9.35pm.