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The Gun and Irish Politics

Examining National History in Neil Jordan’s 'Michael Collins'


Raita Merivirta

In the 1990s, Irish society was changing and becoming increasingly international due to the rise of the ‘Celtic Tiger’. At the same time, the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland also fuelled debates on the definition of Irishness, which in turn seemed to call for a critical examination of the birth of the Irish State, as well as a rethinking and re-assessment of the nationalist past. Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins (1996), the most commercially successful and talked-about Irish film of the 1990s, was a timely contributor to this process. In providing a large-scale representation of the 1916-1922 period, Michael Collins became the subject of critical and popular controversy, demonstrating that cinema could play a part in this cultural reimagining of Ireland.
Locating the film in both its historical and its cinematic context, this book explores the depiction of events in Michael Collins and the film’s participation in the process of reimagining Irishness through its public reception. The portrayal of the key figures of Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera comes under special scrutiny as the author assesses this pivotal piece of Irish history on screen.


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Acknowledgements ix


Acknowledgements Early versions of some parts of this book have already appeared as ‘Like Cain and Abel: Michael Collins and Eamon de Valera in Neil Jordan’s Film Michael Collins’ in the 2005 Film & History CD-ROM Annual, and as ‘“Good Heroic Irish Men and Nasty, Brutal British People”?: the Image of the British (and the Irish) in Irish Film’ in Kari Alenius, Olavi K. Fält and Markus Mertaniemi (eds): Imagology and Cross-Cultural Encounters in History (Pohjois-Suomen Historiallinen Yhdistys, Studia historica sep- tentrionalia 56, Rovaniemi, 2008). The original version of the section ‘Irish National Cinema and Hollywood’ in chapter 5 was published as ‘Between Irish National Cinema and Hollywood: Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins’ in Estudios Irlandeses: Journal of Irish Studies, Issue No. 2 (2007). Chapter 4 includes material originally presented in ‘Brother against Brother, Green against Green: The Irish Civil War on the Screen’ in Isabelle Le Corff and Estelle Epinoux (eds) Cinemas of Ireland (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009). These paragraphs are published with the permission of Cambridge Scholars Publishing. Extracts from Michael Collins: Screenplay and Film Diary by Neil Jordan, published by Vintage, are reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Ltd.

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