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Gráinne Seoige rehearsing ahead of TnaG's launch in 1996

From Paisean Faisean to Yu Ming: The most iconic moments from 25 years of TG4

The station launched a quarter of a century ago today.

TODAY MARKS 25 years to the day since TG4 – then known as Teilifís na Gaeilge – first brought Irish-language TV broadcasting to the national airwaves.

The date was 31 October 1996. A very different time, when Boyzone were topping the charts; teenagers around the world were dancing the Macarena; and the ill-fated Millennium Clock had only recently been fished out of the Liffey.

With dignitaries on hand including the then Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht – one Michael D Higgins, whatever happened to him? – the new station launched with fireworks, dancers, and a message from President Mary Robinson. 

Celebrations for the launch of TnaG on 31 October 1996 TG4 TG4

It was the beginning of a unique TV offering which consistently pushed boundaries, and left us with some indelible cultural artefacts along the way. Let’s take a look at the most iconic moments from 25 years of TG4.

The first gay kiss on Irish TV

Tom and Jack, on Ros na Rún TG4 TG4

TG4′s flagship soap Ros na Rún broke boundaries from the station’s first year on the air, when an electric moment between Tom and Owen led to Ireland’s first on-screen gay kiss. The show went on to air the first TV marriage between two men in 2002, and earned a reputation for tackling topical issues in a sensitive way.

(Plus who could forget Stephen Fry’s cameo?)

Ros na Rún TG4 / YouTube

The outfits of Paisean Faisean


Perhaps no Irish show defines the phrase ‘cult favourite’ better than Paisean Faisean, which ran for 39 episodes on a very simple concept: three men pick an outfit for a woman, and the one who does best (or anyway least worst) gets to go on a date with her. The ensuing mistakes, misunderstandings, and terrible clothing choices made for an irresistible cocktail. And can we talk about this promo

Ireland’s victory over New Zealand in the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup

Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

TG4 has long been a prominent supporter of women’s sports, giving a national broadcast platform to ladies’ Gaelic football from 2001 onwards. But it was their coverage of the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup that caught one of the crowning glories of Irish sport: Ireland’s 17-14 triumph over the mighty Black Ferns, the first ever senior win by an Irish over a New Zealand side.

Ireland’s historic victory went out live on TG4 in an electrifying clash that would become one of the tournament’s all-time biggest upsets.

Yu Ming’s big disappointment


The 2003 short film Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom tells the story of a young man bored with his life in China who picks a new home by spinning a globe. His finger lands on Ireland, so he devotes himself to learning the Irish language – before arriving in Dublin to find that hardly anybody can understand him. 

Co-funded by TG4′s Lasair scheme, the film went on to claim awards around the world, notably winning at the prestigious Aspen Short Film Festival. 

The trauma of being a teenager, as told by Aifric


Aifric – which launched exactly 15 years ago today, when TG4 was but a youthful 10 years old – was the broadcaster’s shot at representing the trials of teenagerdom in the west of Ireland.

The title character is a 14-year-old in a new town, whose family will seemingly stop at nothing to mortify her. (Her father is an accountant who wants to be a rock star, her mother is an embarrassing hippy, and her little brother is insufferable.) Really, who hasn’t been there? 

Hector meets Tadhg Kennelly down under


It’s a select group of personalities who are known by just one name. Britney, Elvis, Enya… and of course, Hector.

It was more than 20 years ago that Hector Ó hEochagáin first arrived on TG4, and since then he’s stamped his insatiable appetite for adventure, conversation agus craic firmly onto our cultural landscape. We’ll let you share your own thoughts on his best TG4 travel show, but whether he’s in Mexico or Mullingar, somehow Hector is always close to home.

It’s hard to pick a best moment, but why not start with his encounter with Kerry’s Tadhg Kennelly in Hector San Oz? (If you’re sensitive to the phrase ‘budgie smugglers’, look away now.)

Hector / YouTube

The story of growing up in Connemara’s only cinema


Cinegael Paradiso was part of TG4′s notably impressive documentary offering, which has also taken in subjects as disparate as Mad Dog Coll, the Irish-American hitman, and the hunger strikers in I gCillín an Bháis. This moving documentary told the story of the childhood of director Robert Quinn, who grew up in (yes, literally in) the only cinema for miles around in Connemara.  

The OC arrives on Irish screens for the first time


Remember when The OC was the hottest property on television? Well, anyone who was a teenager in the mid-2000s will – and it will probably be thanks to the perspicacious acquisitions department at TG4, who brought it to thousands of grateful living rooms.

The road to romance on Pioc do Ride


Another star in the constellation of memorable TG4 dating concepts, this show took participants on the road to romance by again asking a single person to choose between three potential suitors – this time, based only on their car and driving skills.

It also added an unexpected twist. The lucky winner, once selected, then had a choice of their own: use the prize money on a date, or spend it on their motor instead?

The results were sublimely painful… and that’s before we get to the contestants rooting around in each others’ gloveboxes:

Pioc do Ride / YouTube

The first televised leaders’ debate as Gaeilge


Some 92 years after the foundation of the Irish state, Enda Kenny, Micheál Martin and Eamon Gilmore sat down for the first ever televised leaders’ debate as Gaeilge ahead of the historic 2011 general election.

This took place, of course, in TG4, with The Journal reporting at the time that the trio discussed plans for the future of the Irish language, tourism in the regions and job creation in Gaeltacht areas. A subsequent debate in 2016 had to be called off when it emerged that two party leaders weren’t sufficiently fluent in Irish.

Dáithí conquers his fear of heights on Route 66 


It’s not only Hector that can do travel shows, you know. Dáithí Ó Sé took to the most famous road in America for this 2007 show, memorably overcoming his own fear of heights to climb the St Louis Arch. 

Sarah Lund redefines geansaithe on The Killing… and the rest of Nordic Noir too


TG4 has always had a strong record in international TV dramas, bringing everything from The Wire to Breaking Bad to Irish terrestrial airwaves for the first time. But perhaps the most iconic imports were the ‘Nordic noir’ series from Denmark, beginning with the legendary geansaithe of Inspector Sarah Lund, which graced our screens back in 2013.

And Ireland’s first Western swaps Connemara for the Yukon Territory


There’s probably no better proof of the scale of TG4′s ambition than An Klondike, a (partially) Irish-language Western which begins in in gold-rush era Montana. It tells the story of three Irish men, the Connolly brothers, who set out to travel to the Yukon in the hope of striking it rich. 

Filmed fairly close to the TG4 studios in Connemara, with the home of the Twelve Bens standing in for the mountains of the far Canadian northwest, the producers went as far as to build the fictional town of Dominion Creek (it was near Oughterard). The series won critical acclaim and international distribution – it was even snapped up by Netflix, where it has been renamed as Dominion Creek. 

Want to bathe in the memories of these classic TG4 shows? You can revisit a lot of them on the TG4 Player. And there’s plenty more to discover there too, from Hector’s Éire Nua to new hit drama Stateless

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