Friday 20 September 2019

Pick of the week: Keepers of the Flame

Monday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Victims of the revolution

Historian Diarmaid Ferriter
Historian Diarmaid Ferriter

Paul Whitington

In the 1920s, the Free State government introduced a pension system for combatants who could prove they'd fought in the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence or Civil War. More than 85,000 people applied, but only 18,000 got any money: all their testimonies reside in the Pension Archive, and provide a telling insight into the hierarchy of the new state.

Those stories form the basis of Keepers of the Flame, a documentary by historian Diarmaid Ferriter and filmmaker Nuala O'Connor, which looks beyond the monolithic versions of early 20th-century Irish history to the real experiences of ordinary people who lived through those turbulent times. Some of the stories they dredge up are fascinating, and reveal the poverty frequently suffered by veterans and their families in the aftermath of independence. In effect a kind of invisible class system operated, subtly excluding lower-ranked combatants from state protection that should have been theirs.

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Keepers of the Flame also confronts the thorny issue of remembering. We see fascinating footage of how very differently 1916 was commemorated before the outbreak of the Troubles. In the early 1970s, the Irish government curtailed official remembrance ceremonies for the Rising, allowing Sinn Féin and others to occupy the vacuum. But by 2016, it was possible to hold an impressively mature and inclusive centenary commemoration. Remembering the War of Independence and the Civil War will inevitably be more complex.

"Oh, it's very tricky," Diarmaid Ferriter said when I spoke to him just before this film's cinema release, "because the question for the Civil War is how do you find a framework for commemoration? It's very different from 1916 where there's a general consensus that 'ok, the state is going to commemorate 1916' because we regard it as the foundational moment of our republic and you can unite people around that idea. You can't do that with the Civil War, because it's still very divisive. The question is, are we mature enough 100 years on to be able to confront a lot of the brutal realities?"

Movie picks


Alone in Berlin

Monday, RTÉ 2, 9pm

Silent resistance

A factory worker begins covertly resisting the Nazi regime after losing his son in the war. With Brendan Gleeson, Emma Thompson.



Fantastic Beasts

Thursday, Sky Premiere, 8pm

Crimes of Grindelwald

Albus Dumbledore seeks the help of his former student Newt Scamander to battle an evil wizard. Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Johnny Depp star.


Suite FranÇaise

Wednesday, RTÉ One, 9.35pm

Sleeping with the enemy

A lonely French woman falls in love with a courteous German officer who’s billeted in her country home. Michelle Williams stars.


Sports picks

International Rugby

Today, Sky Sports Main Event, 1.15pm

If pre-tournament form is anything to go by, this could be the most open Rugby World Cup we've seen yet. South Africa and Australia have rebounded spectacularly from poor runs of form, New Zealand have faltered slightly, and England are looking more and more impressive. Their directness and raw power were too much for the Welsh last weekend at Twickenham, but this afternoon Wales will get their chance for revenge in Cardiff.

The Saturday Game Live

Today, RTÉ 2, 5pm

Pundits Rena Buckley, Elaine Aylward and Ursula Jacob join Evanne Ní Chuilinn for the build-up to a camogie semi-final double bill at the Gaelic Grounds. At 5.30pm, Kilkenny (Katie Power, below) take on Tipperary, and at 7.15pm it's Cork versus Galway. Commentary from Garry Mac Donncha, Ger Canning, Jill Horan and Aisling Connolly.

The Sunday Game Live

Sunday, RTÉ 2, 2pm

Disconcertingly early thanks to GAA fixture restructuring, it's the All-Ireland Senior Hurling final. Many would have expected Limerick to be in Croke Park this afternoon to defend their title, but instead it's Kilkenny and Tipperary who'll battle it out. The game throws in at 3.30pm, with commentary from Michael Duignan and Marty Morrissey, and analysis from Henry Shefflin, Anthony Daly, Donal Óg Cusack.

Renault Super Sunday

Sunday, Sky Sports Main Event, 4pm

Frank Lampard's tenure as Chelsea manager got off to the worst possible start last Sunday when Chelsea were trounced 4-0 by Manchester United. After that, the only way is up - fans will be hoping the Blues can set things right this afternoon as they face Leicester City at Stamford Bridge. Kick-off at 4.30pm.

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