Mothers of Modern Ireland

Elizabeth McCluskey, Fermanagh

24th July 2008

When you start any project like this, you have to bring what you want or what you envisage to the table. You have to say, 'It would be good if we could find this' or 'talk about that'. It might seemed contrived for a documentary to do that, but without any plan whatsover, the whole schedule and final piece would slip into oblivion. Obviously as you start meeting people and running into certain obstacles, the plan has to change with each obstacle you find, but you try and keep some reference to the original wishes. I think every woman we've met has altered that plan we had - in a positive way. But Elizabeth, or Annie, (depending on whether you want to please her father or her mother) was the first interview we had that sat right slap-bang in the middle of what we'd intended to set out to capture. Her interview was lively and vivacious, distressing and hilarious, humbling and enraging all at the same time. The content ranged from the deeply personal, to the wide-spreading political sentiment, in a breath, which in turn, left me breath-less. It was everything you could possibly dream of in an interviewee, plus all the parts you could never dream of. She started by bringing us to a different part of Ireland, before secretly telling us her actual location which was 30 miles in a different direction. Once we got there, we were to meet her at a certain location. She emerged finally and got into the back of the car where she told us to start driving out of Fivemilestown in Co.Fermanagh. We were in Britain now, we had left Ireland behind in an instant where everything became a different country in the blink of an eye. The road signs and flags changed, crisps couldn't even be bought because we didn't even have enough British Sterling to string together 35p. Ah, there was 50p that had fallen under the seat what seemed like 100 years ago before this adventure had begun. The moment we left the Ireland I'd come to be familiar with and entered this un-Ireland, I was already on edge. Who were these people and what did they believe? 2 miles ago they were flying their county colours above the door, suddenly every village green was flying a Union Jack proudly. DSC_3114 We went up and out into some strange non-land of new forest. Anne told us it had all been planted in the last 50 years since the Troubles on the borders had driven many people out. Old farms had become new pine forests that created an amnesiac landscape for local families returning to see loved-ones. We were brought all the way in to see Anne's family home, where her brother Oliver was now living. After we met him and saw the house, we were brought down to a neighbour where we were quickly provided with Tea and home made wares. This was all lovely, but the day was nearly over and we still hadn't filmed a frame of this wonderful woman before us. DSC_3179 We had to act quickly to get Anne on her own and film her story which had been spilling out here and there over the last couple of hours in conversation. We managed to get a local hotel to lend us a corner of space for the next few hours where we preceded to film one of the most emotional interviews of the whole process. Its impossible not to start taking sides when you talk about Northern Ireland, but our job as filmmakers is to remain in the middle and ask Anne to tell us as truthfully as possible what actually happened to her and her family during these tumultous times. The dynamics of the Queen's Coronation and people coming in to search her home for guns; her dad who fought in the old IRA and all the baggage that came with, all lent to an enthralling 3 hours with Mrs McCluskey. I won't say too much about her stories, needless to say even the most learned Northern Irish Scholar has so much to learn from this deeply personal account of the area during those ""Troubles"". The vast spirit of this lady and her own troubles will never leave me.

- Tom