‘[T]he Free State didn’t change anything more than the badges on the warders’
caps.’(Brendan Behan, The Quare Fellow)
‘Hope deferred maketh the something sick. Who said that?’(Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot)
The film Mise Éire (1959) was produced at a time of profound cultural change in the Republic of Ireland. Eamon de Valera was about to relinquish executive office to his successor as leader of Fianna Fáil, Sean Lemass. Lemass, with T. K. Whitaker, was embarked on the First Programme for Economic Expansion, the economic logic of Fianna Fáil's abandonment of republican nationalism. In place of an All-Ireland national unity – that grail of the Lemass/de Valera generation – would come a new compact with capitalism itself. The nation would be fulfilled not in the achievement of a complete independence, but in an alignment with global capital. Needless to say, this pragmatism was not publicly promulgated in so many words. It had, however, long been available to consciousness at the lived level of individual, family and class experience.
Mise Éire’s triumphalist account of Irish nationalist progression amounted
to an almost unchallengeable hegemonic narrative until Northern Ireland
exploded in ‘The Troubles’ of 1969. The film contains one sequence which
is of particular interest to a discussion of contemporary Irish theatre. A hoist
camera pans across a city street crammed with heaving humanity assembled
to greet the 1916 revolutionary Constance Markievicz, on her return in 1918
from incarceration in a British jail.