Ground-breaking. Unmissable. A journey into the dark side of the Irish State.

Gerard Mannix Flynn’s film, Land Without God, opens in theaters in Ireland this Friday.

Mannix Flynn talks about his new film with Ivan Yates at the NewsTalk podcast in Ireland, 17 October 2019:

As most of you know, Mr. Flynn and Gabriel Byrne “go back a ways,” having been friends since the late 1970’s in Dublin, when they appeared on stage together in the much-remembered play, The Liberty Suit, among other productions. Over the years, Gabriel and Mannix have worked on other projects, including Mannix’s play James X, which he brought to New York City in 2011, and later in support of the Yes Campaign for marriage equality in Ireland.

Now, Gabriel serves as Executive Producer for this new documentary work developed by Mannix and his colleagues Maedhbh McMahon and Lotta Petronella, an “intimate portrait of a family coming to terms with decades of institutional abuse and the impact it has had and is still having on their lives.”

Film Ireland reviewed Land Without God after its festival premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival in February, 2019:

Land Without God is a raw, emotional and unflinching investigation into the effect that decades of repeated institutional abuse has had, and continues to have, on Gerard Mannix Flynn and his family. Flynn, who co-directs alongside Maedhbh McMahon and Lotta Petronella, bravely steps in front of the camera to act as our guide through his own harrowing story.

He is our narrator, speaking to the audience in voice-over monologues, and our protagonist. While the film is framed around his family’s experiences (he conducts a host of raw, visceral interviews a host of them on camera – apparently the first time that they’ve truly opened up to each other about their shared childhood experiences), this is Flynn’s story first and foremost. We learn in great detail of the injustices inflicted upon him as he revisits the decaying sites of the reformatory schools and juvenile detention centres where he suffered in his youth. He remains staunch as he recounts his visceral stories for us, but there is a fierce emotion – a mix of sorrow, frustration and sheer anger – which underpins his every bitter word. . .

This is powerful cinema, which tells a story which needs to be heard and deserves to find an audience.

The message at the centre is that, for the abused, justice has proved to be little more than a word in a dictionary. It would be foolish to think that forms of institutional abuse are consigned to Ireland’s history and in this sense, with an eye on contemporary prisons, care homes and the addiction and homeless sectors, Land Without God is an important attack on past injustices which still feel tragically and painfully present.

Gerard Mannix Flynn, Maedhbh McMahon & Lotta Petronella, the film’s directors



Excerpts from October 12 interview with Mannix Flynn for the Irish Times, with Donald Clarke

One of Dublin’s original punk creators – even if he never wore the gear – Mannix Flynn has never been backwards in coming forward. It’s all there in the terse, angry, ultimately poetic Land Without God. The film explains how, when a boy, he – and many around him – were incarcerated for the most trivial of offences and shipped from the city. The seventh child of 15, raised in two rooms in York Street, Mannix was sent to St Joseph’s Industrial College in Letterfrack at the age of just 10. He suffered truly horrific sexual and physical abuse there. Land Without God mentions those outrages, but it is more to do with the systems that allowed that to happen. It’s an intensely political project. Mannix Flynn argues that the authorities saw the poor as a menace and an embarrassment that had to be shifted away from polite eyes. . .

I am impressed that he persuaded so many of his relations to tell their story here. It must have been a painful experience for them.

“It was very traumatic to get them engaged,” he says. “It was heart-wrenching. It was difficult to get that intimate. That was a very tough experience – for us and for the members of the family who came in.”

Somehow or other Mannix Flynn managed to become the cultural force he is today. He remembers an acting company coming to a prison where he was detained and performing a play. He was already writing and reckoned he and the inmates were “10 times” more talented than the professionals. When he got out, he started as a stage manager. A spell of acting at the Project Arts Centre with Jim and Peter Sheridan followed. His performance at The Olympia in The Liberty Suit, which he co-wrote, is still spoken of with awe.

“You supported yourself through the dole,” he says. “You got a few quid and then you had a share in plays. Maybe you got 30 quid from that. Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Peter Caffrey, Olwen Fouéré: we all worked that way. . . ”

Gabriel Byrne and Mannix Flynn, New York City, 2011

“There are times when you end up broken. You then have to go into that place where you get the ingredients to move forward,” he says. “Estragon and Vladimir had that, even though Beckett was dark and gloomy. ‘We will come back tomorrow because he might come tomorrow.’ What is the truth of your life? What are you going to do if you don’t wait for Godot?”

Yet the anger is never entirely dismissed. As I’m packing up my Brit materials into my spy bag, he finishes with a last word about the documentary.

“Land Without God is a manifesto from my class to my class,” he says. “We are an intelligent, articulate people from a great culture and we would like people to get their boots off our f**king necks.”

Land Without God opens in theaters in Ireland Friday, October 18, 2019.

To read more, check out the Land Without God official website.

We wish Mannix, Gabriel, and all involved with the making of this film sincere congratulations and heartfelt thanks for their efforts! heart


  1. Michelle Ayala

    There is much to be learned as to why some of us escaped and never returned to Ireland. Freedom from religion and freedom of religion. I think our ancestors were praying to the wrong God. Without love there is no God.

    • Michelle,

      The more compassion, empathy, tolerance, and love we can bring into the world, as individuals, the better the world will be. We are facing many crises now. Hate and ignorance will destroy us all if we are not careful. <3

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