On New Year's Eve 1961 the first broadcast of the Irish television service featured addresses by the President of Ireland, Eamon de Valera, and the Primate of All Ireland, Cardinal D'Alton. Both expressed concern over the effect television might have on Irish society. The dire warnings issued by both men illustrated the high level of apprehension held by many.
Irish Television: The Political and Social Origins explores an important field of modern Irish history which has not received much attention. Based on archival material and personal interviews, the book examines the difficult process which led to the establishment of an Irish television service. The author addresses how issues of politics, culture, economics and religion helped shape Radio Telefis Eireann which emerged in 1960 after a decade of controversy. Throughout the 1950s an intense debate concerning the form and structure of television took place which developed at a time when Ireland was undergoing tremendous social, political and economic change. In fact many historians have considered the late 1950s and the early 60s a 'watershed' in the history of modern Ireland.
The book provides a unique opportunity to examine Irish society during this turbulent period as the hopes and fears of a community under enormous social and economic pressure are explored. The Catholic Church, the 'language lobby', manufacturing and trade organisations and a number of cultural and political organisations forcefully expressed their opinion through a number of public and private venues. All were keenly interested in how an Irish television service would be structured and what type of material it would broadcast. This study is a timely contribution to public debate on the role of television in Irish society. The changes which resulted from the establishment of RTE have come to represent the transformation of Ireland from an isolated nation of the fringe of Europe to a modern member of the community of nations.