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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 and 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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6.50K
This short film was made by filmmaker (later archivist) Liam Ó Laoghaire (aka Liam O’Leary) and was commissioned by the Cultural Relations Committee of the Department of External Affairs. 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 […]

Hallowed Fire: THE ART OF EVIE HONE

AaronH IFI
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2.87K
This short documentary about renowned Irish cubist painter and stained glass artist Evie Hone was one of a series of artist 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 and […]

Errigal

AaronH IFI
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1.47K
This lyrical documentary is set against the scenic backdrop of Mount Errigal in County Donegal. The mountains of Donegal are depicted like fairytale characters, where the hero Mount Errigal competes with neighbouring villain Mount Muckish. A fantastical narrative explains that the landscape is ‘a battleground where the weapons are the elements themselves’. Dramatic footage of […]

Yeats Country

AaronH IFI
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3.57K
Yeats Country is a lyrical film commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs to commemorate the centenary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. The first Irish film by cinematographer and director Patrick Carey celebrates the landscape of Yeats’ poetry through stunning photography, narrated by Tom St. John Barry. Evocative images of the West of […]

HOUSING DISCRIMINATION

AaronH IFI
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1.71K
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. […]