The Freedom of the City
Friel is one of the most politically involved playwright of the late 20th century and one of his best works in this sense if The Freedom of the City. According to the plot of this play (written in 1973) it is set in 1970 in Derry City, Northern Ireland, where an unauthorized Civil Right march has been dispersed with the help of rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon, to avoid which three unarmed Catholic marchers stumble accidentally into the Unionist Mayor's office in the Derry City Guildhall. They are Michael Hegarty (22), an intelligent idealistic fighter for the Nationalist cause, Adrian Casimir
"Skinner" Fitzgerald (21), who usually marches and protests for sport and fun, and Lily Doherty (43) , who lives with her invalid husband and their children , one of whom has Down's syndrome , in two squalid rooms lacking running water.
She marches for her handicapped son to have the right to a more dignified life. Reports and rumors exaggerate the situation and inflate the three "occupants" to forty armed rebels.
Besieged by tanks and a great number of British soldiers, and in accordance with instructions issued from a Loudhailer, they eventually decide to surrender. But as soon as they emerge out of the building , with their hands above their heads, they are shot by the soldier who, maintaining that the three "rebels" had fired first, will eventually be absolved of any responsibility. Talking about the historical reference - Even if there is no hint at real
events , the detail of the play conjure what happened in Derry on January 30, 1972, so-called "Bloody Sunday", when during an unauthorized peaceful march, thirteen unarmed civilians ere shot ans as many wounded by the British troops maintaining , against any evidence , that they had been attacked first.
In the early 1970s, on the other hand, the second important city in Ulster, called "Derry", an Irish name, by the Catholics (living outside the town walls) and Londonderry" by the Protestants (living inside them) , saw much fighting
between the two factions and the British Army was often called in. The casualites of the Bloddy Sunday and the authorities' justification of the British troops alienated the Catholic population even more and increased