The Burning of the Custom House
26 Apr 2022
Liz Gillis, Mícheál Ó Doibhilín, Tim Carey, Las Fallon
A documentary made to commemorate the centenary of one of the most significant events in the Irish War of Independence.
The burning of the Custom House took place on the 25th May 1921. It was a calculated attack by the IRA on what was then a significant symbol and functional hub for the British in Ireland. Traditionally it has been thought of as a defeat for the Irish as it was recorded that roughly one hundred of their men were arrested and five were killed, as well as four civilians. This documentary and its researchers put forward the idea that this operation struck a vital blow that led to the ceasefire in July 1921.
Throughout we hear from several talking heads including historians Liz Gillis and Mícheál Ó Doibhilín. This duo are notably recognised for their extensive research on the event and connected to the reassessment of its impacts. The former is literally credited with writing the book on the matter. Another face who reappears several times throughout is Las Fallon, a former member of the Dublin Fire Brigade turned Fire Services historian, who sheds light on the role the fire service played in the success of the IRA’s operation.
The form of the documentary is familiar and rigid, consisting of talking heads intercut with modern footage, historical photos, diagrams and news clippings. It is clearly designed as a form to package the dialogue in the most concise and digestible manner, in which it succeeds. Whilst some of the more modern footage appears to loop throughout, it does however provide a helpful guide to the size and scope of the Custom House for those unfamiliar with it.
Functional and formal, but designed to serve a purpose as it is funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage. A succinct, informative work that is an effective sub-thirty-minute introduction and in-depth guide to a significant moment in the Irish War of Independence.