May 6, 2019
NYU Washington, DC, Solas Nua, and the Embassy of Ireland co-hosted a screening of Keepers of the Flame followed by a panel discussion with Timothy J. Meagher, Associate Professor of History, Archivist, Curator, American Catholic History Collections, Catholic University (retired) and Cóilín Parsons, Associate Professor, English, Co-Director, Global Irish Studies, Georgetown University, as part of Solas Nua’s Irish Popcorn! Film Series and the 7th annual European Month of Culture.
Keepers of the Flame delves into the archives of the Irish Military Service Pensions and what emerges is a truly personal retelling of a brutal and divisive period in the birth of a nation and the devastating legacy it left in its wake, for the individuals who took part and their families who suffered long after the fighting ended. More than 85,000 applied for the Irish Military Service Pension. Just over 18,000 received any payment.
The film brings to light the diverse experiences of some of the 85,000 ordinary Irish men and women who made pension or dependents allowance claims for having actively served during the violent revolutionary period from Easter 1916 to the end of the Civil War in 1923. Their stories lie in the Irish Military Pension Archives, stack upon stack of applications detailing involvement and actions, thousands of different interpretations of the same events lying side by side.
Please note that this event may have been filmed or photographed.
Timothy J. Meagher recently retired from his positions as Associate Professor of History and Archivist and Curator of the American Catholic History Collections at Catholic University. He has written a number of articles on American immigration and ethnic history and written or edited five books on those subjects, including two that won the James Donnelly Prize for the best book in Irish and Irish American history awarded by the American Conference of Irish Studies: The New York Irish edited with Ronald Bayor and Inventing Irish America.
Cóilín Parsons is Associate Professor of English and co-director of Global Irish Studies at Georgetown University, where has taught since 2012. His book The Ordnance Survey and Modern Irish Literature won the American Conference for Irish Studies Robert Rhodes Prize for Books on Literature.
Solas Nua, ‘new light’ in Irish, is the only organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to contemporary Irish arts. Based in Washington, D.C., our mission is to bring the best new Irish artistic talent to American audiences.
One senses the nation leaning nervously into a particularly awkward series of centenary commemorations. The 1916 anniversary went well. The first World War memorials were tasteful. But the War of Independence and particularly the Civil War offer greater challenges. Those dilemmas are acknowledged in this fascinating documentary from the experienced Nuala O’Connor. The picture’s unpromising starting point is a dive into the Irish military service pensions archive and a consideration of how payments were made, who gained and who lost out. Around that fulcrum the documentary bends a comprehensive examination of the challenges that accompany commemoration. The historian Diarmaid Ferriter, who conceived the piece, adds his measured voice to those teasing out important questions that have been little considered in public forums. For all the tales of bravery and resistance, too many combatants have felt their sacrifices and their suffering went unrecognised. There was, in the early days of the State, little understanding of the long-term impact of violent combat. Though Keepers of the Flame does not absolutely demand big-screen presentation, it profits from some top-quality technical work. Mary Black, Aiden Gillen, Joseph O’Connor and Olivia O’Leary are among those reading the contemporaneous transcripts. Colm Hogan’s cinematography balances the talking heads with rich landscapes and washing waves. Most importantly, the reasonable, humane arguments are structured with the clarity you would expect from a professional historian. It is, in the age of online fury, refreshing to hear contentious issues pondered in such measures tones. An education.
The “European Month of Culture” highlights the diverse cultures of the 28 European Union Member States. Musical performances, art exhibits and tours, film screenings,and lectures take place at the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage, Folger Shakespeare Library, NYU Washington, Dumbarton Oaks, EU Embassies, EU Cultural Institutes, and other venues.
To many people the European Union may seem like an abstract idea; yet, there is no better way to illustrate the European ideal of joining forces, than to combine the rich heritage of each country into a month of cultural offerings. These events radiate out from Europe Day (May 9), which commemorates the historic Declaration that led to the formation of the EU. “United in Diversity”, the EU motto, is exemplified beautifully by the talents of the many artists who offer their gifts to the Washington community and visitors.
Find more events on the EU Month of Culture Web Page.