Broadcast to mark Charles de Gaulle’s 50th anniversary, this documentary explores the French leader’s 1969 visit to Ireland. It reveals how the visit was motivated by his interest in Daniel O’Connell, as well as deeply personal reason.
For six weeks in 1969, Ireland played host to General Charles de Gaulle, the greatest Frenchman since Napoleon. Broadcast to commemorate the 50th anniversary of de Gaulle’s death, this documentary explores the remarkable circumstances of his visit. Immediately after resigning as French president in April 1969, de Gaulle fled to the small town of Sneem in Kerry seeking peace and solitude – but he didn’t get it. A horde of international paparazzi descended on the town and besieged the general in his hotel, and the documentary features interviews with local people who share anecdotes of this extraordinary time. It also explores de Gaulle’s fascination with Daniel O’Connell and reveals how his visit to O’Connell’s home at Derrynane, County Kerry, helped him come to terms with his inner turmoil.
The general followed up his visit to Kerry with an extended stay at Cashel House Hotel in Connemara before concluding his visit in Dublin, where he and Irish president Éamon de Valera met for the first time. Against extraordinary archive footage of de Gaulle and de Valera on the lawn of Áras an Uachtaráin, the film explores what the two men discussed and reveals how de Gaulle may even have predicted Brexit over fifty years ago. The French leader’s visit also led to stronger ties between Ireland and France, a relationship now growing in importance as Brexit gets underway. But Charles de Gaulle also had a deeply personal and poignant reason for visiting Ireland, something that is explored at the end of the documentary.
Narrated by Doireann Ní Bhriain, “De Gaulle in Éirinn” is produced by Tile Films for TG4. Tile Films’ Manging Director Stephen Rooke is executive producer for Tile Films Limited. Máire Ní Chonláin is executive producer for TG4.