Episode #19: Ciara Chambers on Irish Newsreels

From the 1910s to the 1950s, newsreels were the only source of non-fictional moving images available to the public.

Many samples of this forgotten genre survive. Now researchers are uncovering a whole new set of archival sources that nuance and illustrate the history of Ireland in the first half of the 20th century.

Dublin 1916. A screenshot from ‘Sinn Fein Rising: Liberty Hall Part 1’ by Pathé, available on the Irish Film Institute video player. Links below.

Ciara Chambers is one of those researchers, and the leading authority on the newsreels screened to people throughout Ireland. These newsreels cover an extremely tumultuous era in Irish history: the 1916 Rising, the War of Independence, partition, the Civil War, and the first decades of the two new political entities on the island. And, of course, the newsreels cover the period of the two World Wars.

As Ciara Chambers explains, the dominant newsreel companies on the Irish circuit were British. This meant that nearly all material watched by Irish audiences was coloured by the British worldview. But the story is more fine-grained than that – it turns out that stories were sometimes altered, added or omitted to suit unionist viewers in the north, or independence-minded viewers in the south. And when stories clashed with the lived reality of viewers in the south, they weren’t shy about raising their objections.

The conversation here will be of huge interest for those interested in Ireland’s current decade of centenaries.

Feargus Denman and Ciara Chambers

Ciara Chambers is the authority on the history of Irish newsreels. She has worked on a range of archival and digitization projects with the Irish Film Archive, Northern Ireland Screen, Belfast Exposed Photography, UTV, BBC, and the British Universities Film and Video Council. She was also the associate producer on ‘Éire na Nuachtscannán ‘ (‘Ireland in the Newsreels’), a 6-part television series broadcast on TG4. She is Lecturer in Contemporary Film and Screen Media in the Department of Film Studies in University College Cork.

Resources Mentioned in the Episode:


All materials used here are for educational purposes only.

The screenshot used above is from the Pathé newsreel Sinn Fein Rising Liberty Hall Part 1, which may be viewed here:


Extracts from the soundtracks of two newsreels by Pathé are used in this episode, for educational purposes only:

Settling In – American Troops in Northern Ireland (Pathé, 1942)

Spectacular Parade in Dublin (Pathé, 1941)

These and many other archival items may be viewed on British Pathé’s online channel www.britishpathe.tv