Thursday 29 September 2016

'It highlights the ramifications of the proclamation in a most delicate, human, powerful and profound way' - Liam Neeson on RTE 1916 series

Sasha Brady

Published 06/02/2016 | 12:08

Liam Neeson narrates the landmark RTE 1916 documentary
Liam Neeson narrates the landmark RTE 1916 documentary

Liam Neeson has spoken about his pride at working on RTE's landmark 1916 documentary and the impact he hopes it will have on viewers.

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Liam Neeson narrates RTE One’s landmark, three-part series 1916. Written and produced by historian Briona Nic Dhiarmada, the documentary will tour international film festivals and will be broadcast in Irish embassies across the world to mark the centenary.

Neeson spoke about the importance of Irish people being aware of their own history when speaking with RTE Radio One today.

"We did not learn about our Irish history and it was only when I was at Queen's University at 19, and the old internment was introduced and the horrors that were happening then were coming to a head, that I started to educate myself about the history of my country," Neeson said when speaking to RTE Radio One.

The docu-series aims to tell the story of the 1916 Rising in a "new way", according to Nic Dhiarmada, and "give back Irish history to Irish people in an intimate and compelling way".

"We've always looked at the story in an insular way," she said when speaking to Radio One.

"But what would happen if we were to pull back the lens and look at this as an event in European history and indeed in world history?"

That's exactly what the documentary has done, pulling in landmark movements that were taking place across the world, including the suffragette movement, and placing them in the context of the events that were unfolding at home.

"[The Rising] was on the front page of the New York Times for 14 consecutive days, pushing World War One news to the margins," said Briona when explaining how the documentary explores the US connections.

The series places both the Easter Rising and the subsequent events that led to the establishment of the State, in an international context. It documents how anti-colonialism found momentum in the wake of the first World War in a way that Irish viewers have never seen before.

"What Briona and her team have done is scoured the world, they found images, still photographs, that no one, none of us in Ireland have ever seen before." sad Neeson.

"They have found footage that's quite phenomenal and information that's quite phenomenal. There's images there that really took my breath away because I had never seen them."

However, for Neeson, the most important part of the documentary is the introduction of the Proclamation of Independence.

"[The series] highlights the ramifications of Pearse's [proclamation]. It shows just how beautiful that was and how far reaching it was... how it included women, and the vote... everyone would be equal, every religion would be respected.

While the 65-year-old actor lamented that we still have a way to go before we meet the aspirations of the Pierce's writing, he hopes that the series will give viewers "pause to think of the far reaching effects".

"It's quite something," he said.

"And the series highlights that in a most delicate and human and powerful and profound way."

The first episode of the three part series goes out on Wednesday, February 10 on RTÉ One at 9.35pm.

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