Audience Glossary: Getting The Historical Scoop On THE FERRYMAN
With a run time just over three hours, a cast of twenty, and a wealth of Irish historical context embedded within, Butterworth's new drama is a lengthy and complex affair. The play centers on The Carney family, a large rural Northern Irish clan whose yearly harvest is interrupted by some sinister guests.
Though details on the play are scarce, BroadwayWorld was able to dig up some historical tidbits that will lend audiences a helping hand in better understanding this thrilling and mysterious new Broadway hit.
Check out our glossary of historical terms and references below before you make your trip to visit The Ferryman on Broadway!
IRA (Irish Republican Army) is a movement that began in Ireland in the 20th century dedicated to Irish republicanism rooted in the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic. The group is also characterised by the deeply held belief that political violence is necessary to achieve their goals.
The Troubles- A political/nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland which began in the late 1960's and continued through 1998. Similar to the modern day Brexit debate, The Troubles mainly concerned the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Protestant unionists/loyalists wished to keep Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom, while the mainly Catholic Irish nationalists/republicans sought the secession of Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom to form a united Ireland.
The conflict included a violent republican guerrilla campaign against the British security forces, as well as bombings targeting infrastructure, and commercial and political opponents. On the opposite side of the conflict, Loyalists targeted republicans/nationalists, as well as the wider Catholic community in retaliation for the violence.
The Troubles also involved numerous riots, mass protests and acts of civil disobedience. Of the 3,500 people were killed in the conflict, more than half were civilians, over thirty percent were members of the British security forces, and sixteen percent were members of paramilitary groups.
1981 Irish Hunger Strike - Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland organized in-house protests as a response to the withdrawal of Special Category Status for paramilitary prisoners, which granted political prisoner privileges to such inmates. SCS prisoners could be housed in paramilitary factions, and received special privileges, including extra visits and suspension of prison uniforms and work assignments, as afforded by the Geneva Convention. Loss of such special status would result in a tamping down on IRA recruitment and the spread of propaganda to other prisoners throughout their sentences.
Refusing to be recognized as ordinary criminals, the protests began with the 'blanket protest' in 1976, when prisoners began wearing blankets as an alternative to the prison uniforms they had been made to wear following the decision. In 1978, the dispute escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to bathe and smeared human excrement on the walls of their cells. In 1980, seven prisoners participated in a first hunger strike, which ended after 53 days. A second hunger strike took place in 1981 and was called off after ten prisoners starved themselves to death. Violence in Northern Ireland escalated significantly during the hunger strikes.
Margaret Thatcher- Served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1979 to 1990. She was the longest-serving British prime minister of the 20th century and the first woman to hold the office. Throughout the hunger strike, Thatcher refused to reauthorize the prisoners' political status, declaring "Crime is crime is crime; it is not political".
Despite her refusal, the British government worked with republican leaders behind the scenes in order to end the hunger strikes. After the deaths of ten prisoners, the protests ended. In the end, some SCS rights were restored to paramilitary prisoners, with no official SCS title. In 1984, Thatcher would narrowly avoid an IRA assassination attempt which killed five people.
Robert Gerard Sands- was a member the Provisional IRA who led the 1981 hunger strike while imprisoned at HM Prison Maze. During the strike, Sands was elected to the British Parliament as an Anti H-Block candidate, a political label used by supporters of the hunger strike.
As one of ten prisoners who died from starvation as a result of the strike. his death triggered a new surge of Provisional IRA recruitment thanks to international coverage of the strike by the media.