The Freedom of the City

by Brian Friel

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Last Updated September 6, 2023.

Michael Joseph Hegarty

Michael Joseph Hegarty, age twenty-two, is unemployed and engaged to be married. His plans to continue his education and build a career are derailed by his involvement in the protests. His belief that reforms can solve Northern Ireland’s problems, along with confidence in British rule, clashes with Irish activism.

Elizabeth Doherty

Elizabeth Doherty, known as Lily, is the middle-aged mother of eleven children. She tries to lift them out of poverty and support the family as a cleaner, because her husband is disabled. Lily becomes one of the protesters who occupies Guildhall; there, she takes a lighter tone in making fun both of their situation and of the grandeur of the mayor’s rooms.

Adrian Casimir “Skinner” Fitzgerald

Skinner, the nickname of Adrian Casimir Fitzgerald, is a twenty-one-year-old petty criminal. He turns into a leader by virtue of recognizing the location at which he, Lily, and Michael, have arrived. Skinner’s familiarity with the law leads him to believe that their reaction will be swift and violent. While not overtly political in his motivations, he is a skilled analyst of the practical realities of the conflict. His mocking attitude toward the mayor’s rooms sets an irreverent tone.

Liam O’Kelly

Liam O’Kelly, an Irish journalist, covers the occupation on television. He sympathizes with Ireland and opposes the British.

The Judge

The Judge is the official that heads the investigation into the occupation and related events. As he remains unnamed, he serves as a generic symbol of British occupation and the inequalities built into the justice system.

The Ballad Singer

The Ballad Singer offers songs that use traditional formats to provide political commentary on the Guildhall occupation and fate of Lily and the other activists.

Brigadier Johnson-Hanbury

Brigadier Johnson-Hanbury is the British commander who represents the occupying forces. He initiates the attack on the Guildhall occupiers that results in their getting shot. He provides testimony to support the official story.

Dr. Dobbs

Dr. Dobbs is an academic who provides sociological analysis of the protest’s causes as well as Marxist-slanted commentary on class.

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