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James Plunkett

Irish TV's first broadcast producer-director, activist

James Plunkett, one of Irish TV’s first broadcast producer-directors but better known for his activism, plays and novels — including 1969 novel “Strumpet City,” which later was adapted for TV and starred Peter O’Toole — died May 28. He was 83.

After he joined Radió Éireann as assistant head of drama and variety, his radio play, “Big Jim,” set during the 1913 lockout, formed the basis of “The Risen People,” which was produced at the Abbey Theater in 1958.

In 1960 he became one of Telefís Éireann’s first producer-directors. One of his television dramas was of the 1798 rebellion, “When Do You Die Friend?,” which has become a landmark production. He also wrote the script for the BBC-RTÉ docu “Bird’s Eye View,” which led to the commissioning of “The Gems She Wore: A Book of Irish Places.”

He took 10 years to write his “Strumpet City” about Dublin during 1907-14. It became an international hit, and the 1980 TV version became one as well.

Dublin native began writing in his teens and by the early 1950s was contributing plays to Radió Éireann.

Early on, as a clerk with at Dublin Gas Co., he became an official of the Workers’ Union of Ireland in 1946. In 1955, when he traveled to the Soviet Union on a cultural visit, he was broadly denounced but won a confidence vote.

Widower had four children.

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