Priceless and rarely seen footage featuring many key architects of Irish independence is available to view online after a painstaking repatriation and digitalisation process by the Irish Film Institute.

Ireland's lack of indigenous filmmaking in the first half of the 20th century meant that the only footage of pivotal events like the Easter Rising and the War of Independence was held abroad, with much of it not available to the public.

With the help of funding from the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, the IFI brought home carefully selected newsreels from the British Pathé and British Film Institute archives to create digital copies from the original film prints.

Many of the newsreels had not been viewed since their original broadcast in cinemas 100 years ago.

Historians were also involved in the process in a bid to correctly catalogue the information attached to the newsreels as they required significant updating.

One hundred and fifty five films in the Irish Independence Film Collection are now available for the public to view online, free of charge.

The recordings include Irish crowds welcoming Countess Constance Markievicz home after her release from prison, Éamon de Valera visiting Boston in 1919, the funeral of Terence MacSwiney in Cork in 1920 and Michael Collins addressing a huge crowd following the signing of the Treaty.

There is also footage of the funeral procession of Arthur Griffith in Dublin, and the shelling of the Four Courts by the Irish Free State Army.

Commenting on the importance of the Irish Independence Film Collection, IFI Director Ross Keane said: "This collection relates to one of the most pivotal periods in Irish history, and it was critically important for us to bring this material back home, gathering it all together in the one place and sharing it with the world, free of charge, on the IFI Player. 

"The value of this moving image material cannot be overstated," he added.

Mr Keane explained that the digitalisation process has allowed historians to identify people in crowds and exact locations.