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The Department of Foreign Affairs Collection

The Department of Foreign Affairs, also known as the Department of External affairs, was one of the many state bodies in Ireland to commission films to be produced on its behalf. Often partnering with the National Film institute (now the IFI) they generally made films on subjects considered to be culturally worthy and educationally important. The Cultural Relations Committee, a group within the department responsible for promoting Irish arts & culture abroad, commissioned much of the output, and films such as ‘A Nation Once Again’ (1946) ‘W.B. Yeats: A Tribute’ (1950) and Liam O’Leary’s ‘Portrait of Dublin’ (1952) are representative of the type of historical and informative topics generally featured. A noteworthy example of more controversial and political subject matter is ‘Fintona – A study of Housing Discrimination’ which looks at anti-Catholic housing discrimination in Northern Ireland. This film is unusual as the government allegedly made it with the use of a hidden camera, utilising the medium of film as a political tool to address the Northern question. This investigative documentary was in stark contrast to the department’s other non-threatening output, however, after the controversy that followed Fintona’s release in 1954, the Department of Foreign Affairs returned to focusing on less contentious subject matter.

PORTRAIT OF DUBLIN

AaronH IFI
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This short film was made for the Department of External Affairs’ Cultural Relations Committee by filmmaker (later archivist) Liam O Laoghaire (aka Liam O’Leary). The film was designed to promote the city of Dublin to its inhabitants and to potential visitors from abroad.  Brendan Stafford’s crisp black and white cinematography serves the city’s elegant architecture […]

Hallowed Fire: THE ART OF EVIE HONE

AaronH IFI
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This short documentary about renowned Irish cubist painter and stained glass artist Evie Hone Dublin was one of a series of artists’ profiles commissioned by the Cultural Relations Committee of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs. Filmed at her Dublin studio in Marley Park in Rathfarnham in 1950, it explores the artist’s life, creative process […]

ERRIGAL

AaronH IFI
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556
This visually poetic documentary was shot against the scenic backdrop of Mount Errigal in Donegal and blends the sounds of nature with an elegant musical score. The highest mountain in Donegal is presented here as an ever changing character, where “moods change by the minute”. There is a sense of mystery and magic around the […]

YEATS COUNTRY

AaronH IFI
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This lyrical film was commissioned by the Department of External Affairs to commemorate the centenary of the birth of W.B. Yeats in 1865. It was the first Irish film by cinematographer and director Patrick Carey, who was renowned for his beautiful landscape films. An ambitious work, Carey uses direct quotations from Yeats’ writing to illustrate […]

HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

AaronH IFI
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863
Shot in 1953, this film highlighted housing discrimination practiced by the unionist-controlled council in the town of Fintona in County Tyrone. It outlines the inequalities faced by the poorer, and usually nationalist, inhabitants, and details how new council houses are being given to unionist residents who are in less need of the houses than nationalists. […]