Sunday, May 14, 2006

Labor Conflicts a Focus in 2 Film Projects

Two dramatic stories from the annals of the history of the Irish seem set for production.

According to a story in the May 12 edition of The Irish Examiner, Ireland's largest trade union, SIPTU, has decided to invest in a major motion picture about James Connolly, who served as acting general of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, SIPTU's predecessor. Connolly commanded the Republican headquarters at the GPO in Dublin during the Easter Rising. Though badly wounded, he was propped in a chair and executed by a British firing squad on May 12, 1916, less than two weeks after the Irish insurgents surrendered.

The film is to star Scottish actor, writer and director Peter Mullan as Connolly, and Dublin native Patrick Bergin as "Big Jim" Larkin, who was, with Connolly, co-founder of the Irish Labour Party. It will be directed by Adrian Dunbar and produced by Rascal Films. Mullan was the writer and director of the much acclaimed film, "The Magdalene Sisters," which raised the hackles of many in Ireland with its no-holds-barred depiction of the brutality that the Church in Ireland sponsored in its Magdalene laundries.

The union’s General Secretary Joe O’Flynn made the announcement at a ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of Connolly’s death. “James Connolly was passionately committed to organising workers,” O'Flynn said. “The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland,” Connolly wrote, O'Flynn noted. “The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered.”

Meanwhile, the April 27 issue of The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call reports that Galway-based ikandi Productions has received 90 minutes of access to Schuylkill County Prison in Pottsville, Pa. The prison, still in use, was the site of the executions of six Irish coal miners on June 21, 1877. They were part of a secret organization known as the Molly Maguires, accused of murder. The Molly Maguires arose in the 1870s in the face of oppressive conditions in the mines, and attempted to counter the bosses' tyranny through murder and intimidation.

A film version of their story, "The Molly Maguires," was released in 1970. The film starred Sean Connery and Richard Harris, with a cameo by Irish raconteur and auteur Malachy McCourt. A county official told the Morning Call that the documentary would appear on the History Channel in the United States and on Irish television. The company plans to shoot May 22 at the prison. The company also plans to film in the Philadelphia area, a county official told the paper. WGT

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