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Topical Budget 245-2: The Dublin Rebellion (1916)


Main image of Topical Budget 245-2: The Dublin Rebellion (1916)
35mm, black and white, silent, 269 feet
Production CompanyTopical Film Company

Scenes of Dublin after the Easter Uprising

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This Topical Budget newsreel was first shown in public on 6 May 1916, a week after the end of the violent rebellion against British rule that became known as the Easter Rising (24-29 April). It was the most serious such insurrection in Ireland since the late 18th century, resulting in hundreds of deaths on both sides, and would later be seen as the first in a series of events culminating in the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922. Two years after that, Dublin's central thoroughfare, Sackville Street, one of the principal locations highlighted by the film, would be renamed O'Connell Street after the early 19th century nationalist leader Daniel O'Connell - something unimaginable at the time the film was made.

As with most such newsreels of the period, Topical's cameras only reached Dublin after British rule had been firmly re-established and reasserted: visual evidence and transport logistics suggest that that the film was probably shot around the start of May 1916. Although the intertitles are straightforwardly descriptive, the visual emphasis on British troops marching through the streets of Dublin and British soldiers on guard outside ruined and still smoking buildings (including the Four Courts, the Post Office and Metropole Hotel, central locations of the rebellion) would themselves have delivered a powerful propaganda message.

Equally revealing is the lack of context. An intertitle refers to "rebels being marched off to the Quay", but none are named, and there is no explanation of what they were fighting for or analysis of the events themselves. There is certainly no acknowledgement that the summary executions of the ringleaders had already commenced: Patrick Pearse, widely seen as the rebellion's figurehead, was shot on the morning of 3 May, with 14 of his colleagues following in quick succession. The ruthlessness of this decision (especially the execution of the badly wounded James Connolly, who would have died soon anyway) contributed at least as much to firing Irish nationalist passions over the next few years as did the Easter Rising itself. However, over the same period Topical Budget would distinguish itself for its comprehensive and surprisingly balanced coverage of Irish issues at a crucial turning-point in the country's history.

Michael Brooke

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