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Keepers of the Flame (2018)

RTE Keepers of the Flame

Tells the universal story of a generation dealing with the consequences of war and civil war, shedding light on Ireland’s post war psyche – on all sides.

The film delves into the archives of the Irish Military Service Pensions; what emerges is a 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.

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 1921. Of those 85,000 applicants, just over 18,000 received any payment. 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.

The archive could be called a collective memoir – what it reveals are the personal interpretations and unique accounts of the revolutionary period, and the anger, despair and bitterness left in the wake of a country’s fight for freedom. The film sheds light on the nation’s post-war psyche. Many of these men, women and their families felt that they were effectively abandoned by the state, their service unrecognised and in most cases, refuted. Families and communities torn apart by the Civil War were left destitute. Thousands were coping with physical and mental trauma for the rest of their lives, for which there was little support or understanding, unable to provide for their families or take care of themselves.

Keepers Of The Flame, conceived by historian Diarmaid Ferriter and written by Ferriter and filmmaker O’Connor, looks at the long-term impact of a great reluctance to talk about the events of the period, the lack of desire to relive actions and decisions, and the secrecy and silence that further isolated individuals and families, shedding light on the nation’s post-war psyche. Many of these men, women and their families felt that they were effectively abandoned by the state, their service unrecognised and in most cases, refuted. Families and communities torn apart by the Civil War were left destitute. Thousands were coping with physical and mental trauma for the rest of their lives, for which there was little support or understanding, unable to provide for their families or take care of themselves.

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