Socialist Worker

Mise Eire and Saoirse? Films that chart the Irish struggle for liberation

by Chris Bambery
Issue No. 2077

Few Socialist Worker readers will have an Irish language DVD in their film collection. Well here’s a chance to get two, subtitled in English!

Mise Eire (“I Am Ireland”) takes its name from the title of a poem written by Padraig Pearse, one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising executed by the British.

Issued in 1959 it was directed by George Morrison with a soundtrack by the composer, Sean Ó Riada.

The film uses contemporary newsreel to tell of the growing challenge to British colonial rule in the build up to the Easter Rising, the events during the rising and the aftermath as the Republican cause gathers support.

It uses imagery derived from Sergei Eisenstein’s October and does not shirk from the importance of a resurgent working class to these events.

An Tine Bheo (“The Living Fire”) is also on the DVD. It was made in 1966 during the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Easter Rising.

Veterans recount their experiences as the film revisits scenes of the fighting. One volunteer recalls Republican hero Cathal Brugha saying he was done for and telling his comrades to leave him to defend the entrance to the South Dublin Union.

His comrades had to go back to get him after Brugha held the British off, despite terrible wounds from a hand grenade.

Another volunteer takes us through the battle of Mount Street Bridge where a handful of Republicans inflicted 230 casualties on attacking British troops.

The second DVD is Saoirse? (“Freedom?”), made in 1961.

It tells the story from the December 1918 election, when Sinn Fein won and created its own, illegal Irish parliament. A month later the IRA launched its military campaign against the treaty that meant Britain quit all but six of Ireland’s 32 counties. The film finishes with the civil war between the new Irish Free State and the IRA.

Saoirse? uses original newsreel coverage to great effect

Both DVDs were commissioned by the Irish language organisation, Gael Linn, which has now released them on DVD. Whether you know nothing about Irish history or consider yourself an expert these make fascinating viewing.

Mise Eire and Saoirse?
DVD £19.99
» or phone 020 7585 0357

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Article information

Tue 13 Nov 2007, 17:50 GMT
Issue No. 2077
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