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The Early Irish Free State

The Early Irish Free State

The Easter Rising, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War formed one of the most turbulent political periods in Ireland’s history. The impact of this struggle would define the social and political landscape of the emerging Irish Free State.

The Early Irish Free State Collection leads on from our previous historical release The Irish Independence Collection and explores aspects of the nation. Film production in Ireland was of low political and economic priority during this period and the newsreels, documentaries and cinémagazines in this collection were filmed by the non-indigenous agency, British Pathé. Although this representation of Ireland through a foreign lens offers us a very specific view of the fledgling nation, it also documents aspects of Irish life that may otherwise not have been recorded. We see parts of the country struggling with potato blight, traditional craft-making and the isolated way of life of the western islanders, in stark contrast to modern developments such as the development of hydro-power, manufacturing fairs, the promotion of brand Ireland and finally the beginning of the Irish Border, a concern which would return in this century.

These Irish newsreel stories were not held in an Irish archive until very recently and many had not been made available to the public since their distribution nearly 100 years ago. With the support of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the Irish Film Institute was able to work with the original custodians of these collections (the British Film Institute and British Pathé) in order to repatriate, safeguard and share these vital visual records. By digitising the fragile, original nitrate film prints to high definition format, historians, academics and the public can now witness details not evident in the standard definition versions of the material, previously available.

The Early Irish Free State Collection enlists the expertise of Brenda Malone, of the National Museum of Ireland (NMI), to examine and add context to depicted events, people and locations, many of which were originally missed by non-Irish cataloguers. Additionally, Brenda links artefacts held at NMI, that carve out a broader, contextual historical map of politics, folklife, religion and tourism in the Irish Free State. Through this multiplicity of perspectives we are able to see a nation forging its identity whilst grappling with the legacy of its tumultuous history.

Discover the Collection

Themes in Focus

An Introduction to the Irish Free State

Brenda Malone, of NMI, introduces the early years of the Irish Free State, emerging from the violence and destruction of the War of Independence.

Rural and Urban Modernisation

Brenda Malone explores contrasting aspects of rural and urban modernisation including the development of electricity, the Shannon Scheme and potato blight in Connemara.

Religion in the Irish Free State

Brenda Malone introduces aspects of religion in the new state including the Catholic Emancipation Centenary Celebration, the Dublin Eucharistic Congress and Julia Clarke (a woman sentenced to gaol for kissing her boyfriend).

Fundraising and Manufacturing

Brenda Malone explores the Irish Hospital Sweepstakes Pigeon Derby in Dublin and a Civic Week Pageant of Industry which showcases over 60 different manufacturers.

Tourism as an Industry

Brenda Malone explores Ireland as a tourist destination, from Glendalough and The Giant’s Causeway to Kerry’s Lartigue Monorail and how transatlantic flights at Shannon Airport are impacting on Ennis.

The Border

Brenda Malone introduces the creation of checks and controls at the Irish Border, an impassioned speech by Lord Mayor Alfie Byrne and how the Border continues to be a concern in 2019.

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