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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 Four: National commemoration and symbolic locations


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National commemoration and symbolic locations1

In contrast to other films that draw attention celebrate the economic and social changes underway in Ireland in the early 1960s, in terms of its political identity the country is represented in the Amharc Éireann news films of 1959–64 as an inward- and backward-looking martial society, still very much defined by Ireland’s revolutionary past. The fiftieth anniversary of the 1916 Rising was due to take place in 1966 and many of the activities recorded reflect the sense of preparation and build-up in anticipation of this event. The series includes a great many films that focus on national commemoration ceremonies, celebrating Irish republican heroes, patriots and martyrs. Films of national commemorations focus almost exclusively on the remembrance of heroes, patriots and martyrs to the Irish revolution (1911–22) and on militant republicanism, beginning with Theobald Wolfe Tone and the 1798 United Irishmen rebellion. Commemorations of the Easter Rising feature the heroes of the revolutionary period, including the Irish Volunteers, the Irish Citizen Army, Cumann na mBán (The Women’s Society) and the Old IRA. The War of Independence of 1919–21 is represented by University College Dublin students’ annual commemoration of republican legend Kevin Barry and other films honouring those killed by the British authorities in Mountjoy Prison.

The Civil War of 1922–23 that followed was impossible to ignore but more difficult to deal with diplomatically, as the legacy of this division...

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