Alisande Healy Orme looks at the nature of Irish protest in Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary’s documentary Eat Your Children, which screened as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
Taking its name from Jonathan Swift’s 1729 satirical essay A Modest Proposal – in which the author suggested that the impoverished Irish population sell their young as a foodstuff to the wealthy as a way to alleviate the dire economic conditions of the time – ex-patriot Irish women Treasa O’Brien and Mary Jane O’Leary’s documentary Eat Your Children examines whether Ireland today is too inactive when it comes to political protest.
The reputation of the Irish abroad is that of the “fighting Irish” – one of a people who have never been afraid of protest and taking up arms when necessary. Here, O’Brien and O’Leary ask why the nation has not done so in the face of austerity measures that will cripple at least the next two generations to come. Unsurprisingly, though interesting, the tightly-budgeted film is not the most cheerful to watch.
Taking the form of a road-trip around the country, Eat Your Children has its makers meet with activists, economists, sociologists and members of the public who outline Ireland’s history of protest and how, in spite of it, the country today can appear apathetic or even complacent in the face of constant constraints and demands put upon it by politicians from across Europe.
Interviews with members of the public reveal a state of indifference that hinges on a two-pronged, thoroughly depressing consensus: they feel that any protest would make little to no difference anyway, and are planning to take another route that has long-served the impoverished of this country well – emigration in order to seek work.
Granted, there’s nothing revelatory in these disclosures (they’re certainly nothing you haven’t heard down the pub) but these sad facts of modern Irish identity are only rendered more strongly when shown alongside historical footage and accounts of how direct action benefitted citizens of this country in the past. It’s to be hoped that when it comes to future protests the filmmakers prediction that “this is not the end” holds true.
Eat Your Children screened on Sunday, 22nd March 2015 at the Screen Cinema as part of the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.