The Irish Pub

The Irish Pub
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Director: Alex Fegan
Cert: PG
Genre: Documentary
Starring: Paul Gartlan, Bobby Blackwell
Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins

There's not a great deal of structure to this study of a great Irish institution. A cinematic translation of that ubiquitous poster featuring famous Irish pub fronts, the film simply slips from bar to bar meeting interesting and peculiar people at every stop. One suspects that His & Hers might have been an inspiration. Ken Wardrop's film did, however, have a degree for forward momentum.

Never mind. The picture is delightful throughout and makes an implicit (but forceful) argument for the magnificence of the traditional Irish pub: solid wood, stone floors, no music, little telly, nick nacks, yellowed ceiling. Only one of the pubs featured – allowed in, we suspect, because the proprietor is a particular character – seems to have been vandalised by the wretched modernisers. People who prefer other sorts of pub are bad, bad people. (Though this writer must admit to wincing when guitars and such were produced to disturb the peace of blameless conversationalists.)

For all the antique delights of the décor, The Irish Pub is most notable for its array of charming, angry, funny, welcoming and eccentric publicans. We will reluctantly forgive director Alex Fegan for completely ignoring Northern Ireland, and acknowledge distinguished contributions from the gentle Brennan sisters of Bundoran, the chatty Eugene Kavanagh from The Gravediggers in Glasnevin, and Ray and Bobby Blackwell of De Barra's in Clonakilty.

The undoubted star, however, is the supremely grumpy Paul Gartlan of the pub that bears his name in Kingscourt, Co Cavan.


“You go into a pub abroad and they’d nearly ignore you,” he says. “Go to a pub in Ireland and they’d be up your arse to find out who you are.” A man worth travelling to meet, I suspect.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist