Briona Nic Dhiarmada captivated a small group of Leaving Certificate History students and staff with a talk she presented in Borrisokane Community College on March 11th. She has spent the last five years working on a three part series on the Easter 1916 Rebellion in preparation for the centenary celebrations this year. It recently aired on RTE and received unexpectedly extremely high ratings. Evidence of the renewed interest and eagerness of the Irish people to celebrate this hugely important part of our history which led to our independence from the British Empire.
Briona completed a degree in Irish and Celtic studies in T.C.D. and then a Masters in the area of Literature and Film. She first began working for RTE in film production. She wrote and produced ‘Ros na Rún’, a well-known series on TG4 for 4 years. She is currently the Professor of Irish Studies and Film production in the University of Notre Dame.
Her documentary reveres the men and women involved in the Easter Week resurrection in 1916 and celebrates the impact their actions had worldwide. Countries such as India and South Africa, former colonies of Britain, also seeking their independence were inspired by the events unfolding in Dublin. The current generation can finally express their pride in a contentious part of history. The revolt which took place Easter week in 1916 was led by a group of idealists that were prepared to sacrifice their lives for independence and equality for all. Her widespread knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Irish history was hugely impressive and evoked a huge sense of national pride in all present.
A short trailer of the series was played and eagerly watched by the audience. The superb production, impressive cinematography and flawless narration by the famous and respected actor, Liam Neeson was evident. Unlike other documentaries the important role women had in the rebellion is included in this documentary and their work reclaimed. This was a time women did not have the vote but yet thousands had such an active part in that historic week. She spoke of the challenge she had to keep the film interesting whilst avoiding shoddy amateur reconstructions. In this production contemporary footage was used morphing old pictures from 1916 into modern images of Dublin. The film is filled with compelling interviews with well-respected historians worldwide. She worked hard ‘to put every penny of the 3 million US investment onto the screen’.
Briona was keen to emphasise the widespread US interest and involvement in 1916 which continues to the present day. The Easter Rising was front page news in the New York Times for 14 consecutive days. After Connolly and Mac Diarmada were executed by the British, 25,000 New Yorkers protested outside Carnegie hall. Such interest to be expected as many Irish emigrants and ancestors lived in America at the time and currently 38 million on the US Census claim proudly to be of Irish origin. The documentary will be screened to a huge number of Irish embassies worldwide live on the16th March from a Gala celebration to be held at the Concert hall in Dublin.
Briona is a gifted educationalist with a humbling genuine interest and love for Irish history. There is no doubt that for many of the students at the talk this will be a memorable school event. It will have a huge impact on some of their career choices and future life changing decisions. Her extensive knowledge and passion for Irish history was impressive and impacted greatly on her audience. Students followed her out continuing to ask her questions long after the talk was over. For those who have not yet watched the series they await with eager anticipation for their turn to borrow and watch the DVD generously donated by Briana. She also left the school library with a personally signed copy of her book, “1916 The Rebellion” compiled from many of the archived materials and personal stories from 1916 that inspired the documentary. Míle Buíochas a Briona.