Ireland, one of the first countries in Europe to adopt radio communication, was a latecomer to television. Northern Ireland already had a limited-service through UTV and BBC Northern Ireland (TV began in the UK in 1922) but Éamonn de Valera was wary of TV and considered it a luxury the Irish Government could not afford. When Seán Lemass succeeded De Valera in 1959, the wheels for Telefís Éireann (lit. Television Ireland) were put in motion with Eamonn Andrews as Chairman.
Launched on December 16, Telefís Éireann's original plans to open on 25 December of that year, were cancelled to give staff time off for Christmas. President de Valera gave the opening address and stated:
“Never before was there in the hands of men an instrument so powerful to influence the thoughts and actions of the multitude.”
He was followed by other messages from Cardinal d'Alton and Lemass himself. The first programme, hosted by Andrews, was a gala night countdown to the New Year. It featured a live concert from a ball at Dublin's Gresham Hotel and also filmed the public dancing outside the hotel in the snow on O'Connell Street. Other appearances included Siobhán McKenna, Mícheál MacLiammóir, Jimmy O'Dea, Maureen Potter, Micheál Ó Heihir, Patrick O'Hagan and the Artane Boys' Band. and appearances by Micheál Ó Heihir, Patrick O'Hagan and the Artane Boys' Band.