The first episode of RTÉ’s The Secret Millionaire, which featured an emotional and generous donation by Galway man John Concannon, was the most watched programme on television on Monday night.
The Tuam-based entrepreneur and managing director of JFC Manufacturing is given a new identity in the programme and spends a number of days and nights in different areas of Dublin, sometimes posing as a community worker and in other instances as a handyman, on the look-out for people and charities to help. In the programme we see the cameras following Mr Concannon around his plastics manufacturing business in Tuam, with his family in nearby Kilconly, and then on to Dublin where most of the show is set with audiences seeing him working undercover.
In an emotional ending to the programme, Mr Concannon hands over three cheques to causes close to his heart in west Dublin. Pieta House in Lucan was the recipient of the largest sum of money, €25,000. Its founder, Joan Freeman, who has just won a People of the Year Award for her commitment and dedication to the prevention of suicide and self-harm, said: “It was overwhelming to get such a generous donation from John. I’m still in shock but so grateful that Pieta House was chosen by our secret millionaire. John has given us the confidence to look at projects on a national level. Meeting with John also reaffirmed to me the genuine goodness of people. The programme is such a powerful way to make people aware of our services, and helping us all to love away from the stigma of suicide and self-harm.”
Cathy White of The Carers Association in Clondalkin received a cheque for €10,000, which has allowed the centre to deliver a number of hours of emergency respite to family carers and has provided extra resources, training and support to family carers. ‘‘I feel so privileged that John should chose The Carers Association, given that there are so many other deserving causes out there. When I got the cheque, I was genuinely lost for words but we cannot thank John enough for his generosity,’ said Ms White.
Rachel Doyle and Michelle Reynolds of St Mark’s Rangers Football Club said they were “overwhelmed” when they received a cheque for €5,000. “John was such a nice man and so down to earth. What he did for the club was amazing and has given us such a great opportunity,” said Ms Doyle.
Mr Concannon admitted that he is not overly found of the title ‘secret millionaire’ as it might suggest the main focus of the show is about the person giving the money. However, he stressed that the “show is really about the charities and the brilliant work done by the unsung heroes in society” who can be found in every city and county in Ireland.
Monday’s episode was watched by an average 644,000 viewers, with a 41 per cent share, making it the most-watched programme of the night. Commenting on the success of the show, commissioning editor RTÉ Factual said: “RTÉ is delighted that episode one has been such a success, both in terms of ratings and feedback. I think what really stuck a chord with people was John Concannon’s humanity, generosity of spirit and his very genuine emotion. And it brings to light the brilliant work done by charities and communities all over the country.”