Accent and Irish Film

Curator's Note

Cinematic representations of Ireland and the Irish were, until recently, predominantly non-indigenous productions, frequently featuring characters who embodied the ‘stage Irish’ stereotype prevalent in theatrical (Henry V) and cinematic (The Quiet Man) comedic representations of the Irish. Therefore, popular commentary on Irish cinema is wrought with criticism of false representations of Ireland and its people. However, more than any other of the criticized aspects of cinematic Ireland, representations and misrepresentations of the Irish accent have sparked some of the most sustained and common popular criticism.

Against a history of politicisation of the voice in Ireland, once used as an anti-colonial weapon, recently a significant shift in accent has been noted. The period of economic boom in Ireland from the early 90s to the mid 00s, known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’, saw the emergence of a new linguistic group, a 'fashionable' group comprised mostly of 'younger, newly affluent speakers [who sought to] hive off from the masses, by avoiding pronunciations seen as emblematic of working-class… identity or of rural Irish provincialism'. [1] More recently, in a post-Celtic Tiger environment, due in part to the widespread proliferation of this dissociative trend in accent, the decreasing ‘exclusivity’ of the 'fashionable' group and the increasing instances of parody of this accent in Irish comedic media, a trend of masking the privilege of one’s accent has also been noted.

In tandem with developments in accents in Ireland, and in opposition to American representations of Ireland, many filmmakers in Ireland have begun to utilise the representative potential of accent in cinema. As the majority of films made about Ireland and the Irish were, until recently, made by foreign filmmakers, these films tended to utilise accent as means of evoking a general ‘Irishness’ usually in contrast to an American other. The development of indigenous filmmaking in Ireland from the early 80s saw frequent use of accent as a means of expressing character identity. Cinematic elements including theme, plot, and characterisation have used accent as a device which offers more to viewers/listeners familiar with the political and social implications of the particular accents represented. The above clip offers a range of moments in which accent is utilised by the filmmakers. 



Moore, Robert. “‘If I Actually Talked Like That, I'd Pull a Gun on Myself’: Accent, Avoidance, and Moral Panic in Irish English,” Anthropological Quarterly 84, no. 1 (2011): 41–64,


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