Ireland’s first suburban shopping centre

Published in Features, Issue 1 (January/February 2024), Volume 32

By Saskia Vermeulen

Above: Looking for bargains in Dunnes Stores, Cornelscourt, Ireland’s first suburban shopping centre, opened in 1965. (IFI)

In this issue we discover the Guinness Film Society Film Group, an amateur film-making group set up in February 1968 when Mike Lawlor, then chairman of the Guinness Film Society, proposed its establishment to the committee. The Guinness Film Society, in existence since the early 1950s, was one of a number that brought independent and auteur cinema to Irish audiences. At its next public screening, Lawlor addressed the audience and invited anyone interested in making films to join the Group. Core members included Guinness colleagues John Gleeson (editing and camera), Tony Corcoran (research and sound) and Mike Lawlor (producer), as well as Ries Hoek (director of photography), a Dutch commercial artist with an interest in film-making and a 16mm Bolex camera. The collection consists of three films: Liffey Faces (1969), Ciall Cheannaigh (1970) and Emerald Shannon (1971).


1969 / 26 mins

Above: Liffey Faces traces the journey of a small toy boat down the River Liffey. (IFI)

Filmed during the summer of 1968, Liffey Faces traces the journey of a small toy boat down the River Liffey. As it makes its way from Kippure to Poolbeg, we witness a host of water-based antics, including the Liffey Descent (a marathon canoe race), rowing at Islandbridge, the Liffey Swim and the Ringsend Regatta.


1970 / 15 mins

Ciall Cheannaigh is an observational documentary, with a soundtrack by Donal Lunny, which captures the hustle and bustle of Dunnes Stores in Cornelscourt, Ireland’s first suburban shopping centre. While the first modern shopping centres emerged in the United States in the 1920s, it was the 1960s before they began to pop up in Europe. In Ireland they generally appeared in the suburbs, designed with vast car parks to accommodate shoppers with a newfound desire to travel by car. Ciall Cheannaigh begins as early-morning shoppers pull into the car park and ends as they drive away at dusk. In between, it captures the minutiae of food, fashion and family, as mothers, fathers, babies, teenagers, smokers, and priests and their housekeepers wander through the aisles. Over a sprightly soundtrack, the film offers a fascinating picture of suburban life in late-1960s Dublin. Ciall Cheannaigh won the 1970 Oireachtas competition, adjudicated by film-makers Louis Marcus and Robert Monks.


1971 / 27 mins

In Emerald Shannon, the Bakers, an English family, arrive in the west of Ireland for a delightful cruising holiday along the Shannon, visiting Banagher, Clonmacnoise and Athlone.

For a deeper dive into the collection visit

Saskia Vermeulen is Digital Platforms Manager at the Irish Film Institute.


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