On the opening night of Telefís Éireann President Éamon de Valera gives a cautious welcome to Ireland's first television station.

Telefís Éireann (later RTÉ) began broadcasting at 7.00 pm on 31 December 1961 with an address from President Éamon de Valera. The first person to speak on Ireland's first television station the 79 year old president told viewers of his apprehension and nervousness for the new media.

The opening night schedule for Telefís Éireann also reflected the position of the Catholic Church as both benediction and an address by Cardinal D'Alton featured in the evening's programme.

Addressing the audience in Irish and English the President outlines his hopes and fears for television.

Never before was there in the hands of men an instrument so powerful to influence the thoughts and actions of the multitude.

He is hopeful that the new service will be a source of recreation and pleasure and also information, instruction and knowledge. He acknowledges the power of television which he says can be used for incalculable good but also irreparable harm.

President Éamon de Valera has great hopes for the new service and is confident that those in charge will do everything to make it useful for the nation.

The schedule for the opening night was set out in the RTV Guide and continued until midnight.

  • 7:00 Opening of Telefís Éireann -De Valera's address was followed by an address by An Taoiseach Sean Lemass TD and the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs Michael Hilliard TD.
  • 7:08 appx. Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament given by His Grace The Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, the Most Reverend Dr John Charles McQuaid in the oratory in the television studios at Montrose.
  • 7.20 appx. Siobhan McKenna and Micheál Mac Liammóir in an inaugural programme of verse by two great poets.
  • 7.34 appx. Last October
    A brief film memory of the early work in preparing Irish television programmes.
  • 8.00 A Toast To Telefís Éireann
    From meeting our guests at Montrose, our cameras in the first live Outside Broadcast join friends from home and abroad in the ballroom of the Gresham Hotel, Dublin for a toast to the new service.
  • 8.15 Céad Míle Fáilte
    Maureen Potter, Jimmy O'Dea and Mary O'Hara bid you a Hundred Thousand Welcomes in an hour of music, song, ballet and traditional dances.
  • 9.15 The News
  • 9.45 appx Ireland 1961
    A filmed report of major events in Ireland during the year. Compiled by Telefís Éireann News Staff.
  • 10.15 appx. In O'Connell Street
    From outside the Gresham Hotel Micheal O'Hehir brings the people of the city to our screen and introduces Our Girl Announcers Kathleen Watkins, Marie O'Sullivan and Nuala Donnelly as they arrive at the Gresham.
  • 10.30 appx Meet The People
    The filmed report of a countryside tour to bring the people of Ireland to the screen for Opening Night.
  • 11.05 appx Return To The Gresham hotel
    The cameras return to the Gresham Hotel, Dublin where Brendan O'Dowd will be your Master of Ceremonies until midnight.
RTV Guide, Opening Night of Television, 31 December 1961
RTV Guide, Opening Night of Television, 31 December 1961