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The Banshees of Inisherin Ending Explained: A Tale of The Irish Civil War

The Banshees of Inisherin is a dark comedy film directed by Martin McDonagh. Set on the remote island of Inisherin, the movie follows the story of Pádraic and his childhood friend, Colm.

The Banshees of Inisherin ending distils the story’s tragic tone into a clean and bitter final sequence, which leaves the audience pondering over the story’s actual meaning.

Continue reading to uncover the message behind the movie’s final scenes as I decipher the subtext hidden beneath the story’s surface.

The Banshees of Inisherin: Echoing The Irish Civil War

The script commonly references the Civil War as it unfolds on the mainland, which presents a highly symbolic backdrop to the feud between the two primary characters.

The Irish Civil War was a bitter feud fought between the Irish Free State, and the IRA or Irish Republican Army, that officially started in June 1922.

The war followed disputes over the Anglo-Irish treaty, proposed in 1921, which culminated after two years of fighting with the British in the Irish War of Independence.

The treaty established Ireland as an entity separate from the United Kingdom, though it was still to exist within the British Empire, whilst Northern Ireland would remain under British rule.

Pro-treaty groups were pleased to see the end of the conflict with the British, though many believed the agreement was a betrayal of the republic, and IRA membership suddenly increased in 1922.

The fighting continued for almost a whole year, which saw bitter divisions between the two factions and led to thousands of deaths that spread across both sides.

The Banshees of Inisherin Ending Explained Dominic

Dominic’s Death: Leaving A Lonely Pádraic Behind

Towards the end of the story, it transpires that Dominic has drowned in the lake, which leaves Pádraic to sit in his house, alone, accompanied only by his animals.

This final poetic image from McDonagh reflects the idea that through the breakdown of friendship, there is very little salvation left behind for Pádraic.

Pádraic’s Destruction: An Act of Irish Republicanism

One of the most important scenes in The Banshees of Inisherin’s ending is Pádraic’s destruction of his old friend’s house.

Pádraic’s act of arson reflects the guerrilla tactics enacted by the IRA during the Civil War, which revolved around destroying infrastructure and burning public buildings.

Although Pádraic sees Colm sitting still inside his burning home, it transpires that he left before it wholly burnt down, and a final interaction between the two characters on the beach reflects on Pádraic’s character arc.

The Banshees of Inisherin Ending Explained Burning building

The Banshees of Inisherin Ending: The Final Scene

“I was nice before all this. I don’t know what I am now,” says Pádraic, a man now charged with inconsolable bitterness and resentment.

“Some things, there’s no moving on from. And I think that’s a good thing,” Colm replies. The subtext behind his dialogue here suggests their friendship has been irreparably damaged. 

More interestingly, though, is the fact that Colm is at peace with this thought, as the desire that drove his choices throughout the story is finally satisfied.

This final exchange is completely absent of a kernel of hope for the future, and instead, it points only towards the kinship of the characters’ past.

In symbolic terms, McDonagh uses this scene to depict how the bitter divisions in Ireland, which continue until today, are reflected in the unsettled feud between his two central characters.

This idea is perfectly embodied in the final line of description in the screenplay, which reads, “The distance between the two men gets bigger and bigger.”

The Banshees of Inisherin Ending Explained Final Scene

The Banshees of Inisherin Ending: Final Thoughts

The Banshees of Inisherin is a complex and thought-provoking film that leaves the audience with many questions. The movie’s ending reflects the breakdown of friendship and the bitter consequences that follow.

In this way, the movie’s ending challenges us to consider the complexity of Irish history and how we can relate to this through the context of friendship. 

For a deep dive into The Banshees of Inisherin Ending, and to learn how this is all contextualised by the movie’s relationship between character and theme, click the button below to watch my video essay on the screenplay.

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Nick Fore Script Doctor / Script Consultant

Nick Fore is an experienced script consultant who reads screenplays for the British Film Institute.

He has written comprehensive coverage on over 1,000 scripts and has helped screenwriters get their work into development with production companies such as Imagine Entertainment and Screen Ireland. 

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