25 March 2023 The Irish Film & Television Network
IFTN talks to IFTA Outstanding Contribution Award Recipient Micheál Ó Meallaigh
06 Oct 2016 : Katie McNeice
It is fitting that Ó Meallaigh’s legacy has come to be acknowledged by the Academy in the same year as the poignant Centenary celebrations, and at a time when Irish film and television content is receiving more acknowledgement at home and abroad for its authenticity, intelligence and quality than ever before.

Described by IFTA as a visionary and pro-active giant of the Irish Language, his integral role in promoting our native language and culture cannot be overstated.

We talk to Ó Meallaigh about his most rewarding moments over the past two decades at TG4, his hopes for the future of Irish language content innovation and advice for film and television professionals today.

IFTN: What was a highlight moment or project for you in your tenure as Commissioning Director?

Ó Meallaigh picks documentary series ‘Seachtar na Cásca’ without hesitation. This project offers a profile of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the 1916 Easter Rising; P.H Pearse, James Connolly, Eamon Ceannt, Tom Clarke, Joseph Plunkett, Sean Mac Diarmada & Tomas MacDonagh.

He tells us he has chosen this for its timeliness and also for its high production value, which resulted in the project travelling internationally. Abú Media approached Ó Meallaigh with the idea which intrigued him from the outset, and came to fruition two years later.

The series is directed by Daithí Keane (An Klondike) and co-written by Keane and Aindrias Ó'Cathasaigh. Nicola Moroney (In America, Songs for Amy) is credited as Production Designer.

‘Seachter na Cásca’ was nominated for IFTA awards in 2011 for both Documentary Series and Irish Language, with Pierce Boyce of Abú Media receiving the latter award at the ceremony. The project also received a Bronze Torc Award for Best Factual Series at the Celtic Media Festival in the same year.

The project received funding from the Broadcast Authority of Ireland's Sound and Vision scheme in 2011, in a year when Irish langauage projects were allocated €2.3M of grants which totalled €7.8M.

Michael O’ Keeffe, Chief Executive of the BAI: 
“The BAI is pleased to sponsor the Single Documentary category in this year’s IFTA Television Awards. The Sound and Vision scheme has supported this category of programming over many years and we wish all the nominees the very best of luck. We would also like to extend many congratulations to Micheal O Meallaigh who is the recipient of the IFTA Outstanding Contribution award this year and  has been responsible for so much of the excellent programmes broadcast on TG4 over the years, including many supported by Sound and Vision.”

IFTN: If you could nominate any area of Irish language content creation to be innovated upon in future years, what would that be?

Ó Meallaigh describes his vision for an Irish language comedy series based in Connemara. It is a project he endeavoured to launch in his time at TG4, which was to be filmed and broadcast in front of a live audience, but which he did not have the time to initiate.

It was also envisioned this audience would be from Connemara, with Joe Steve Ó Neachtain on board as the writer on the series. Ó Neachtain (Na Cloigne, Paddywhackery) is admired for Ó Meallaigh for his excellent command of dialogue and also for his understanding of tragedy and comedy.

He tells us a difficulty for the project was Ó Neachtain’s schedule, as he was too busy with his work on long-running Irish language series ‘Ros na Rún’, on which he played Peadar Ó Conghaile.

IFTN: If you could offer any advice to young professionals in film and television to create successful Irish language content, what would it be?

The single most important skill to learn he tells us, though it may seem obvious, is to invest the time into learning the Irish language as well as becoming fluent in technical aspects such as camera and production.

Given the number of young people in film and television schools at present, he advises us that learning the Irish language will double one’s chances. This is most especially the case in TG4, for although they do of course speak English, he describes the Irish language as an intricate part of working for the broadcaster.

On the matter of young people working as Gaeilge, he also reminds us of the young talent involved in new series ‘Eipic’, which is one of several projects to come from TG4 signalling a move toward more contemporary drama in recent years.  

‘Eipic’ is nominated for no less than three awards at the IFTA Gala TV Awards tomorrow night, for Irish Language, Children’s and Young People’s and Best Director for Louise Ní Fhiannachta. Ní Fhiannachta is also one of eight female nominees in the female craft categories at the awards this year.

In his closing comments, Ó’Meallaigh reminds us of the importance of creating feature films and television in the Irish language which will travel internationally, as we should be speaking to others through these mediums as well as ourselves.

The IFTA Gala TV Awards will broadcast from TV3 on Sunday, October 9th at 10pm. 

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