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Visions of Ireland

Gael Linn’s «Amharc Éireann» Film Series, 1956–1964


B. Mairéad Pratschke

The Amharc Éireann film series (literally translated as Views/Visions of Ireland) was a cultural nationalist project sponsored by Gael Linn, an organization whose mandate was the revitalization of the Irish language through the use of modern media and technology. It was produced by Colm Ó Laoghaire, a member of a well-known Irish literary and nationalist family, the Plunketts. As the first and longest-running Irish-language documentary and news-film series, Amharc Éireann represented an attempt on the part of a few committed Irish-language enthusiasts to present Ireland to the Irish in a way that would instil a sense of pride in the country, and to promote the language in a way that the public would accept. Created during a period of rapid social, economic and political change, it reflects and records the dramatic transformation of Ireland from a rural, underdeveloped and relatively isolated nation into a modern member of the international economic and political community.
This book, the first full-length investigation of the Amharc Éireann series as a historical artefact, makes an original and important contribution to our understanding of the complexities of twentieth-century Irish history.
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Chapter Three: Landscape, heritage tourism and women’s work


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Landscape, heritage tourism and women’s work

In a number of the “Eyes of Ireland” documentary films, the landscape itself is presented as the locus of national identity and the repository of national culture. Specific locations, events, monuments and artifacts are presented as lessons in national history, while also serving to promote the heritage tourism industry. In this sense, these “Eyes of Ireland” films intersect with the government’s Bord Fáilte (Tourist Board) promotional films but while the latter were targeting international audiences, Ó Laoghaire’s films were meant to promote Ireland, Irish history and Irishness to its own population.

Some of these films record the journey taken by a group of tourists to a particular location and their experience along the way. Each deals with a specific historical site, national monument, geographical feature or cultural event, and serves as a means to stimulate contemporary national consciousness. Three films are on popular tourist destinations; a new pleasure boat tour of the River Shannon, a visit to the Killarney area long favoured by international tourists, and a guided architectural tour of the Rock of Cashel in Co. Tipperary.1 Tourists are the vehicle to record the real subject of the film, the location itself. In Killarney and on the Shannon they retrace old routes using old-fashioned means of transportation, in an effort to experience the “authentic” journey. Collectively, these films explore the growth of heritage tourism in Ireland, while investigating the symbolic value...

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