The Irish Question is up front and central to series three of period drama “Downton Abbey” - VIDEO

Dublin actor Allen Leech plays the outspoken Irish, Tom Branson, the driver at “Downton Abbey”

The creator of the successful period drama “Downton Abbey” says that the upcoming third series will see the cast struggle with what he calls “The Irish Question” and the arrival of Shirley MacLaine, as Martha Levinson.

The series, produced by Carnival Films in the UK and WGBH Boston, revolves around the life and times of the family and staff on the fictional estate of Downton Abbey, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England in the early 1900s.

Its first series kicked off with the cast’s devastation at the news that the Titanic had sunk and later focused on the World War I and its effect at home. Now the beautifully produced show will push on to the question of “Home Rule and Irish freedom”.

Speaking to the RTE Guide magazine, Julian Fellowes, the show’s creator said “The Irish Question” is very important to this series of Downton.

"At the time in the early twenties, the big thing on front of every newspaper in Britain was Ireland and it would have been quite wrong not to deal with it.

"I'm also rather interested in Irish politics and I was brought up very firmly on the side of Home Rule and Irish freedom. I was instructed in such matters by three fierce aunts. So it's nice to have the opportunity to exploit that interest."

The return of Allen Leech’s character, the petulant Tom Branson and his bridge brings the “Irish Question” of freedom from the Empire to the fore.

The wonderful Shirley MacLaine’s arrival at Downton, as mother to Cora Crawley, will also cause tension in the series.

Fellowes said MacLaine is perfect for the part.

“If it wasn't Shirley, I can't think of who else we would have got," he said.
“We wanted that utter cultural difference so that she would come out of a car and everybody would go `Wow!'"

Laura Carmichael who plays Lady Edith Crawley said "We were open-mouthed when she arrived on set.

“The director told us not to look too excited when she stepped out of the car. She was our grandmother after all and not Shirley MacLaine.”

Downtown Abbey will debut in the UK in September and will air on PBS in the United States from January 6th, 2013.

Here’s the preview for series three of “Downton Abbey”: