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Film Details

TitleOUR COUNTRY
Production companyIrish Civic Films
SponsorClann na Poblachta
Country of originIreland
ProducerO'LAOGHAIRE, Liam
O'LEARY, Liam
DirectorO'LAOGHAIRE, Liam
O'LEARY, Liam
STAFFORD, Brendan
Script/AdaptationLAVERTY, Maura
PhotographySTAFFORD, Brendan
NarratorHARTNETT, Noel
CastLiam O'Laoghaire (Liam O'Leary) (shopkeeper).
Colourb&w
Soundsound
Duration5
Release date1948
CopyIFA
IFA (VHS)
SummaryA party political film for Clann na Poblachta. The film draws attention to the fact that despite being in power since 1932, Fianna Fail has failed to relieve poverty or remove Dublin's tenements. Members of Clann na Poblachta: Sean MacBride, its leader, Noel Browne, and Noel Hartnett speak to camera highlighting dole queues, emigration, food shortages, and the incidence of tuberculosis. The film warns against apathy on the part of the public in allowing Fianna Fail to remain in power.
NoteThis film was Ireland's first political campaign film and was widely attacked by Fianna Fail, who lost the election. Clann na Poblachta was a member of the subsequent Inter-Party, or Coalition, Government, which held power from 1948-1951. For a detailed accnt. of the film and its reception see Rockett et al 1987:76-80. This film is a short election campaign film made for the (now defunct) political party Clann na Poblachta. The context is the 1948 general election. The film highlights the problems of Ireland at the end of 1940s and calls for public effort to resolve these communal difficulties. Three members of Clann na Poblachta - Noel Hartnett, Dr Noel Browne and party leader Sean MacBride TD - speak to camera about aspects of the unhappy condition of modern Ireland after 25 years of self-government. The narration (by Hartnett) emphasises emigration, decrease in agricultural production, the high cost of living, rampant tuberculosis . The footage shows prospective emigrants (seeking UK Permits), dole queues, barefoot children, dirty tenements and, in contrast to these, windows stocked with imported luxury consumer goods. In the middle of the film Dr Noel Browne is introduced and talks of the problem of tuberculosis in Ireland. At the beginning and the end of the film the narration stresses that public affairs are the concern of all and emphasises the dangers of public indifference. The sentiment at the end, expressed by Sean MacBride TD, is also anti-Communist. This film has been described as the first "political documenary" shot in modern Ireland. It was made for the political party Clann na Poblachta (translation: Family or Children of the Republic). In the political history of independent Ireland it is certainly an important work. It can be seen as a cinematic precursor to television's Party Political Broadcast (PPB). At the time it was made it was hugely controversial, the subject of heated argument and debate and had considerable impact. Clann na Poblachta: The political party Clann na Poblachta was established in July 1946 as a radical alternative to the Fianna Fail party, which at that point had been in office continuously since early 1932. Like Fianna Fail at the time of its establishment in 1927, the Clann was closely connected with the clandestine IRA. Sean MacBride, son of Major John MacBride and Maud Gonne, a founding member and first leader of the party, was Chief of Staff of the IRA between 1936 and 1938. Subsequently he left the organisation and studied law, qualifying as a Barrister. He 'took silk' (became a Senior Counsel) in 1943. Many of those associated with the Clann were disaffected Fianna Fail suppoRTErs or sympathisers. The Clann set out to challenge Fianna Fail on economic and social policy in particular. Under the leadership of Eamon de Valera Fianna Fail had proved to be a thoroughly conservative party on fiscal and social policy. The key question that Clann na Poblachta posed was 'what have we done with the last 25 years of self-rule, independence?' The film opens with leading party member Noel Hartnett posing the question. The sub-text or implicit answer as far as the Clann was concerned was 'nothing, from the point of view of economic and social advance and the betterment of the nation'. The party's judgement was that this also was the considered view of a substantial proportion of the electorate. Ireland after WWII: Ireland in the late 1940s was in a sorry state. In addition to the privations of war - the siege economy of the WWII years - there was long term structural decline: declining population, massive emigration, stagnant production, rampant disease and a growing problem with poor housing. The film makes the point that tuberculosis (TB) was killing 4,000 people every year. In the winter of 1947 came the first big test or opportunity for the Clann and its politics and platform. Three seats in the Dail (parliament) had fallen vacant. The (Fianna Fail) government called three by elections, which took place on 29 October 1947. Clann na Poblachta candidates stood in all three constituencies - Sean MacBride was the candidate in one of them (Dublin County). The party's campaign was highly imaginative - a sign of things to come. It won two of the seats, one being the Dublin County seat, and might have won the third. The outcome stunned the government and in the end, Mr de Valera called a general election for 4 February 1948. The general election of 1948: Clann na Poblachta fought a stunning general election campaign. The newspaper advertising was around the slogan 'Put Them Out'. In addition there was this film. The film is clever in that it never mentions Clann na Poblachta or Fianna Fail. In fact there is no mention of any political party or party politics. It is directed at citizens and on the theme of 'public affairs'. Fianna Fail failed to achieve an overall majority in the election although it had re-drawn the constituencies before calling the election. However it was still the largest single party in the Dail. None the less it was turned out of office when all of the other parties and also independent Deputies reached an agreement to form a coalition under the leadership of the Fine Gael party and including Clann na Poblachta. Sean MacBride became Minister for External Affairs and Noel Brown, on his first day in parliament, became Minister for Health. The film in the campaign: There was an expectation that the film would be banned by the Censor as subversive. However the ban did not materialise. At that point Fianna Fail put pressure on film distributors and cinema circuits. In this they had some success - Rank and Odeon refused to put it on their circuits. MacBride and Fianna Fail veteran politician Sean MacEntee also fought a bitter battle in the Letters pages of two national newspapers the Irish Times and the Irish Press (ironically established by de Valera as an intended mouthpiece for Fianna Fail). MacEntee was particularly vicious about the staging of the shop scene (in which Liam O Leary played the role of shop attendant). This, MacEntee contended, showed the film to be a fabrication and bogus. A history of Clann na Poblachta and this period has been written by Eithne MacDermott. It includes a detailed accnt. of the making of the film and its impact. Eithne MacDermott, 'Clann na Poblachta'. Cork University Press, 1998.e Clann set out to challenge Fianna Fail on economic and social policy in particular. Under the leadership of Eamon de Valera Fianna Fail had proved to be a thoroughly conservative party on fiscal and social policy. The key question that Clann na Poblachta posed was 'what have we done with the last 25 years of self-rule, independence?' The film opens with leading party member Noel Hartnett posing the question. The sub-text or implicit answer as far as the Clann was concerned was 'nothing, from the point of view of economic and social advance and the betterment of the nation'. The party's judgement was that this also was the considered view of a substantial proportion of the electorate.
ReferenceEH, 24 Feb 1994, Report of first Irish party political broadcast made to be shown at Irish Film Centre in retrospective week.

Irish Press, 26 July 1994, report by Cathy Dillon on three documentary films about Ireland being shown at IFC.

ST (Culture), 27 Feb 1994, 'Three Controversial Documentaries', review of documentary films including Our Country.

In Dublin, 2-15 Mar 1994, review of documentary programme at IFC including Our Country by Anthony O'Keeffe.

IT (Weekend), 5 Mar 1994, 'The Rocky Documentary Road', review of films in IFC documentary programme by Luke Clancy.

Clann na Poblachta, 1998: 55-57, 'Two Lovely Black Eyes Could Only Mean a General Election', Analysis of film, giving production details and reactions to it by Eithne MacDermott.
Format16mm
LanguageEnglish
Production creditsp.c: Irish Civic Films for Clann na Poblachta, d: Liam O'Laoghaire, sc: Maura Laverty, c: Brendan Stafford, narr: Noel Hartnett, act: Liam O'Leary (Shopkeeper), b&w, 5 mins. 1948. IFA.
LocationDublin, O'Connell St, O'Connell Bridge.
Genre/CategoryGovernment Sponsored
Political
KeywordsPublic Affairs, Politics, Election Campaigns, Propaganda, Slums, Tenements, Poverty, Emigration, Dole Queues, Unemployment, Workers, Clann na Poblachta, Disease, Health, Tuberculosis, TB, Forests, Afforestation, Food, Rationing, Hotels, Agriculture, Politicians, Ruins, Timber Felling, Trees, Trams, Transport, Labour Exchanges, Children, Farm Equipment, Ploughs, Grocers, Shops, Consumption.
PeopleClann na Poblachta, Noel Hartnett, Noel Browne, Sean MacBride.

Contact: irishfilm@tcd.ie | Last updated: Nov 27 2006.