‘Insurrection’ was the centre piece of RTÉ television’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Rising. Broadcast over eight consecutive nights in 1966 the production was the most ambitious project undertaken by the then five year old Telefís Éireann (now RTÉ). As well as creating dramatic reconstructions of the main incidents and battles of Easter Week 1916 Insurrection would tell the story of the Rising as if television had existed.
Hugh Leonard was tasked with writing the script for ‘Insurrection’ and was under no illusion to the challenge that faced him he wrote in the RTV Guide,
It was as if one had been brought face to face with a nightmarish examination paper. Write a four hour television play (in eight 30 minute ‘acts’) about the 1916 Rising; all characters, locales and events to be strictly factual use the actual words spoken, wherever these words have been documented.
RTÉ had never attempted a drama on this scale previously and filming took place on location in Dublin and on set. Producer and directed by Louis Lentin with the assistance of director Michael Garvey Insurrection had a cast featuring some of Ireland’s finest actors Among them Ray McAnally (Presenter), Eoin O’Suilleabhain as (Patrick Pearse) Jim Norton (Tom Clarke) Eddie Golden (Eoin Mac Neill) Declan Harvey (Joseph Plunkett) Kevin Flood (The O’Rahilly) Ronnie Walsh (James Connolly) Joan O’Hara (Countess Markievicz) and Eithne Lydon (Miss Carney). Alongside the professional actors members of the Defence Forces were used to recreate the major battles scenes.
An RTÉ television studio was transformed into the interior of the General Post Office and was set on fire to depict the final moments before the Rebels abandoned the building.
Fifty years after first being shown Insurrection a landmark series makes a return to RTÉ television and is now available on the RTÉ Player in the Republic of Ireland.