Seven Ages was a millennium project undertaken by RTE to document the history of the state that is now the Republic of Ireland from independence in 1922 up to 1990. Each of the seven programmes covered a particular decade and contained archival film and television footage together with commentary from politicians, journalists, historians and economists both living and dead.
Visually, it was very interesting as no such presentation was ever broadcast in a single compilation. There was also a continuity to it that allowed the viewer to see modern Irish history in its entirety rather than as a series of specific events. And because they spanned the period before television was available, coverage of the earlier decades was very interesting.
The last two chapters dealing the 1970s and the 1980s were easier to evaluate because there is far more broadcast material available on them. Not surprisingly, much of it centred on the Troubles in Northern Ireland and their effects on life and politics south of the Border. However, for a historical programme, the accompanying commentary was very one-sided, starting from the premise that the IRA were the problem and that, as a result, all actions taken in the name of opposing them were therefore correct.
Apart from Charlie Haughey, the featured politicians would all be noted for their very anti-Republican positions and the two apparently-neutral contributors, journalist Fintan O'Toole and academic Dermot Keogh, would share that opinion. Now, while everyone is entitled to their point of view, Seven Ages should have made some effort to include the opposing view if it is to be an honest record of the period in question. Indeed, the Peace Process only came about when political leaders in the Republic realised that progress could not be made by clinging to the sterile position of not speaking to Republicans.
Maybe Seven Ages difficulty lies in the fact that it was made in 1999/2000 when the legacy of an iron-fisted political censorship up to just a few years previously still hadn't disappeared. Looking at it on DVD seven years later, it is more an uncomfortable reminder of the Section 31 mentality rather than the comprehensive record of modern Irish history that it could have been.
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