THOSE who idealise Sean South as an egalitarian republican forget South the Catholic zealot and anti-Semite, according to the writer/director of a new short film on the Limerick IRA man.
Play It Again Son!, an 18-minute film with local actor Pius McGrath as South, was written by Limerick-based sports journalist Tommy Conlon and is focused on South’s moral crusade against Hollywood.
“The idea came from one of these New Year’s rallies a couple of years back where a guy from one of the splinter groups said that any Irish citizen who served in the British armed forces was a legitimate target,” said Mr Conlon.
“That got me curious about who Sean South really was and I picked up a biography – or more a hagiography – by a local historian in O’Mahony’s.”
While this had focused on his political views and campaigning for the Irish language, further research by Mr Conlon showed a different side to Sean South.
Letters to the Limerick Leader in the late 1940s showed South was most concerned that Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Rita Hayworth, Groucho Marx, Gene Kelly and others were part of a “Judeo-Masonic controlled conspiracy” to “warp and corrupt the minds of our youth”.
“He was a religious zealot, even by the standards of the day and a member of an ultra-conservative Catholic outfit called Maria Duce.”
“You couldn’t exactly say he was a pluralist and a farcical aspect of his ideology – which prompted me to write the script – was that campaign against Hollywood films. There were seven or eight cinemas in Limerick at the time and a massive cinema-going public and he was dismayed to see so many ordinary Irish people lured away from what he considered Catholic obligation to the decadent world of cinema,” said Mr Conlon.
And it was clear from his letters that Sean South was also “quite the anti-Semite”.
Play It Again Son! was filmed at Bunratty Folk Park and other locations to give it a period feel and Mr Conlon has plans to show it at festivals and in Limerick on a date to be announced later in the year.
He has no concerns about how the film might go down with some of Sean South’s more militant supporters in Limerick.
“It’s not exactly a production by Steven Spielberg that is being shown in 3,000 cinemas around the world. It is a modest short film made in Limerick and will hardly rock the foundations of republicanism,” said Mr Conlon.