Ireland, for all its faults, was at least a place you could travel to from almost any part of the world and either enjoy or despair at (quite often at the same time) its uniqueness.
From Percy French writing about the tardiness of rural trains, to Leo Maguire’s Dublin Saunter, there are plenty of songs that celebrate the Irish experience – and that’s without going into tunes that are about the long-running spat we've had with the English – but in recent times Ireland has become a more homogenised place as the world gets smaller and rampant consumerism dictates our tastes.
From coffee shops to supporting British football teams, Valley accents to ‘mum’ replacing ‘mammy’ in our lexicon, most of what passes for Irish life these days are just things that have been transplanted from other cultures. All of which is why now, more than ever, The Irish Pub is a crucial piece of documentary-making.
The reason’s obvious: the traditional Irish pub is one of the few things left that we can truly call our own. And it’s not about the décor as many great Irish pubs are Victorian English in style, but about the people who own and run these bars, and the relationships they build up with their clientele.
Director Alex Fegan is a genuinely talented documentary-maker. His approach to The Irish Pub is to be as unobtrusive as possible, and let the cast of publicans and their customers tell their stories in their own time.
Paul Gartlan of Gartlan’s in Kingscourt, Co Cavan is a real scene-stealer, even when he’s standing behind the bar with arms folded, saying nothing. But, really, everyone involved deserves a pat on the back for their contribution, especially Alex Fegan for the variety of pubs and pub owners that get on camera. Even former Republic of Ireland player and manager Eoin Hand gets to sing a song in John B Keane’s boozer in Listowel.
A joy from start to finish, The Irish Pub takes a place amongst a list of the best documentaries I have ever seen. It tells its story effortlessly – which obviously took a lot of hard work – and it’s a hugely engaging piece of people-watching.
Go. Enjoy. The Irish Pub is a fantastic film about the real Ireland that we all know and love.