Naming the names; Anne Devlin


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

She was born in Belfast in 1951 in a Catholic family. She is the daughter of Paddy Devlin, a Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic and Labour Party. That is the reason why she grew up in an environment very closed to the movements for the Civil Rights of Northern Ireland Catholic Population and the Home Rule.

Her work includes not only short stories such as the one we will analyse, but also plays. Most of her writing has a common subject, the lives of Catholic women involved in conflicts of Northern Ireland in a period which began in 1969. But the problems between England and North Ireland began long time ago.

Her short stories were first published in the early 80's but later in 1986 nine of them were collected in The Way-Paver. This collection includes not only Naming the Names but also Passages which won the Hennesy Literary Award for Short Stories in 1982. Passages became a TV series for BBC Channel. Anne Devlin is not only recipient of this prize but the Samuel Becket Award (1984), Susan Smith Blackburn Prize (1986) among others.

Naming the Names is set in Belfast during a period of conflicts when Catholics from Northern Ireland (who were minority) began a Civil Rights Campaign. These movements supposed tragic events and incidents, especially in the cities of Derry and Belfast. Indeed both cities have an awfully tragic day in their history and in the minds of their population:

Bloody Sunday Derry

Bloody Friday Belfast


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'


This story deals with the life of a Catholic woman in Northern Ireland. She is involved in the conflicts between the communities within Northern Ireland in a period which starts in 1969. She is working in a bookstore placed in a reconverted cinema, because the original building has been petrol-bombed some time before.

At the beginning of the story, she is living with her boyfriend Jack; but this relationship seems not to be satisfactory for both. Miscommunication is seriously affecting this couple.

During a holiday to Greece with Jack, when she reads that internment had been introduced in Belfast, she decides to become a member of the IRA. This will be her great secret.

Being a member of the IRA, she meets a young man who is one of the targets of the IRA. Her commitment is to lead him to be killed; but after meeting him, a kind of emotional feeling emerges in her. An internal conflict invades her mind.

Meanwhile, the relationship with her boyfriend is getting to an end. He is leaving to the USA and probably he will not come back.

Finally, the young man is killed. She is under suspicion of collaborating with IRA; so police questions her. During the questioning she is asked about her collaboration in the crime and the names of the members of the IRA. She explains how she got involved but, protecting the rest of the members, she gives them just names of streets of West Belfast that had been beaten. These streets represent the Catholic Community.


In this story, both narration and dialogue are used.

”[…]Sharleen was standing at the desk reading the dust covers of a pile of books, and refection each in turn:`There's only one here she hasn't read´.

`How do you know?´

`Because her eyes is bad, I read them to her´[…]” (page. 316)

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

“[…] Finn, are you listening? […]” (pag. 322)

“[…] We spoke not another word […]” (pag. 322)

Finn and Jack do not have communication as a couple.


“[…] In God's name Finn. How and why? […]” (page 339)

“[…] I could understand, not forgive […]” (page 339)

Jack is saying that he will never marry a person who can kill other human beings.

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

The author is telling a story a woman who is a member of the IRA and who has feelings and doubts as all human beings.

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

These topics and the relations between them will be deeply developed later.

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

This story does not show a clear structure. It is fragmented. It shows a lot of time shifts, when she is remembering things. This gives the story certain sense of structure.

“[…] A few days later, I young man, tall, fair, with very fine dark eyes, as if they've been underlined with a grey pencil, appeared […]” (page 317)

“[…] He stood on the street looking after me - and I knew without turning round that he was smiling […]” (page 319)

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

It is a 1st person narrator who makes her own judgements.

“[…] Nothing odd about that […]” (page 319)

It is a central narrator because the narrator and the main character coincide. She is giving her own perspective of the facts. The narrator is involved in the story (Finn = Narrative Voice).

The narrator pretends subjectivity because she gives an impartial view of the facts. She is narrating what she is living at that moment, not the “official” facts.

Narrator and focaliser coincide. Finn is the one who sees the events and the one who narrates these events.

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

It is a 1st person point of view (Finn's point of view). The point of view of the narrator coincides with the point of view of the main character.

There is no multiplicity (there is only Finn's voice). The effect the absence of multiplicity produces is that the reader only sees the events from the point of view of the main character, without the contradictions that other voices would produce.


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

She is the main character of the story. She is representative of an ethnic group (Catholic /Nationalist). She is member of one of the communities at odds.

“[…] There was a large crowd there as well, my own people […]” (page 332)

She has internal conflicts. She changes during the story; at the beginning, she is not a member of the IRA, and then, she begins to act in this organization.

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

He is Finn's “official” boyfriend. He is an English journalist and he is presented as an individual (he is not presented as a member of any group).

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

He is a historian doing his thesis on Gladstone and The Home Rule. He spends the summers in Belfast, but he is studying in The Oxford University. He is deeply aware of his Protestant heritage.

“[…] He told me how his grandfather had been an Ulster Volunteer […]” (page 318)

He is the IRA's target in the story. It seems they are in love although they both have other relationships. He is presented as the other part of the conflict (Protestant/ Unionist)


There is a deconstruction of the myth because of the representation of terrorists as human beings as opposed to the stereotype (Inhumanes, assasins).


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

It is important the use of Irish English.

“[…] Because her eyes is bad […]” (page 316)

“[…] Aye, they're all over the road this morning […]” (page 328)

It is also important the use of sayings by Finn's grandmother.

“[…] My granny used to say that a spider's web was a good omen […]”(page 324)

[…] No road sense! My grandmother used to say […]”(page 326)

Another point interesting here is the use of some adjectives which deal with her feelings.

“[…] I always felt constrained […]” (page 326)

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

The author is not straightforward in her style. She plays a hiding game giving only the clues she is interesting in, and omitting what she thinks it is not necessary to say. The reader has to go step further to acknowledge author's intention.

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

Tone changes throughout the story and it depends on what she thinks.

It is melancholic and sad when she is remembering her granny; and sometimes it is ironic, for example, when she is speaking about Jack.

“[…] Jack was always extremely practical: if you kill someone he would inform the police, get you legal aid, make arrangements for moving the body, he'd even clear up the mess if there was any - but he would never, never ask you why you did it […]” (page 322)


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

Historically and culturally, Ireland has always been “different” from England. Irish culture has always been related to Celtic and Gaelic culture and myths; but not only that, England is a Protestant country, while Ireland is a Catholic one. This is one of the most remarkable differences between them.

The problems between these two countries began in 1167 when the English King Henry II invaded Ireland. The English Army was superior so they occupied Leinster and Munster. The kings of these regions surrendered to the English Army soon. In 1250 only Connaught and the Ulster keep invasive to the English invaders.

In 1264 the 1st “Irish” Parliament appeared. It is said that this Parliament was Irish, but actually it was very similar to the English one. It was made by and for the ruling classes, which of course, were highly English. For parliamentary meetings, the English King should give permission. Parliamentary decisions and laws concerning Ireland might be approved by the English King and his Ministers. This Parliament represents the whole territory of Ireland except Connaught and the Ulster. Gaelic clothes were forbidden.

During the 14th C. Leincester will be known as Pale. This is an area occupied by English people who keep English language and culture. This area is clearly dominated by English authority. At the beginning of the 15th C. Henry VII had already extended the English authority out of the Pale.

In 1485, Ireland went subordinated to England by the Poynnins Law.

During the reign of Henry VIII (1509-1547) there is a breakdown of the relations with the Catholic Church. In 1534 the English King became the Head of the English Church (Aglican Church) by the Supremacy Act. In 1541 Henry VIII became the King of Ireland. Once again Ireland is subordinated to England, this time by the Supremacy Act; then the English King became the Head of the Irish Church and established Protestantism in Ireland, a Catholic country.

Catholic practice was forbidden and Catholics were repressed. But their situation became worse during the reign Elizabeth (Henry VIII's daughter) because they were persecuted and the English expropriated the lands of the Catholic Church of Ireland and lands of Catholic landowners to share them among English Lords and soldiers.

It is also during this period when the Nine Years War took place in Ireland (1594-1603). This war was caused by the collision between the Gaelic Irish Chieftains O'Donell and O'Neill against the advance of the English Government in Ireland, from controlling over the Pale to ruling the whole island. It was a fight between Irish Clans and those Catholics who opposed the spread of Protestantism in Ireland, fronting the English State in Ireland. The war took place mostly in Northern Ireland. It ended with the surrender of O'Donell and O'Neill to the English Crown.

During the Stuart Dynasty, in the early 17th C., James I (King of England and Scotland) started a planned process of colonisation. This is known as the Plantation of the Ulster. English and Scottish Protestants were settled on lands that had been confiscated from Catholic landowners of the Ulster. Ulster was planted in this way to prevent further rebellions, having proved by English Government to be the most resistant of Ireland's regions to English intrusion. These settlers were different from the native Catholic population, and made the Ulster their home. They were deeply conscious of their Protestant heritage and separate identity. Some time later, Protestants were twice Catholics.

As Catholics were in a minority, they were at a disadvantage. In this tense atmosphere of intolerance, The Irish Republican Brotherhood was formed. The aim of this brotherhood was to liberate Ireland of British control. John O'Mahoney and James Stephens were the head centre of the IRB. As O'Mahoney was a Gaelic Scholar and an admirer of legendary sagas featuring warriors, he decided to name it Fenian Brotherhood. Because Fianna in Celtic mythology was a warrior band established to protect the King of Ireland and the Kingdom. Fianna is also the origin of the name of the main character of the short story Finnula. Fenianism became the popular term to define this brotherhood.

The aim of the Fenianism has much in common with the Home Rule. It took root particularly in Connaught and Catholic Ulster because they sponsored athletic and cultural activities, such as reading room, fairs, formed musical organisations, etc. in a depressed working class, in an unhappy society who tried to survive in an intolerant background.

From 1886 to 1893 W. E. Gladstone tried unsuccessfully that the Parliament passed the Home Rule. Gladstone was a political reformer, known by his populist speeches. He was a Liberal Party Stateman and Prime Minister. He got that Irish Catholics did not have to pay their tithes to the Anglican Church of Ireland. We can find some references to him in the text:

“… a historian writing a thesis on Gladstone and the Home Rule Bills…” (Page 317)

“…the Protestant opposition to Gladstone and the Home Rule…” (page 318)

In 1912, during the Ulster's Day, thousands of people (most of them Protestants) signed and Act against the Home Rule, supported by C. S. Parnell, an Irish political leader and one of the most important figures in Ireland in 19th C. He organized the Irish Parliamentary Partly. In the mid 1880's Liberal Partly leader, Gladstone, committed Parnell's party to support for the cause of Irish Home Rule.

The Unionists from the North (mostly Protestants who wanted Northern Ireland to remain a part of the UK and who identify themselves as British) formed the Ulster Volunteer Force. It was an unionist militia formed to block the Irish Home Rule.

As a response to the Ulster Volunteers Force, Irish Nationalists formed the Irish Volunteers as an instrument for the Home Rule.

In 1914, the King George V approved the Home Rule Bill, but it would not be applied until the end of the WWI (1914-1918). This did not like to the Catholics of Northern Ireland; so in 1916, during the Easter Rising leaded by Éamon de Valera, among others, proclaimed the Irish Republic. The Easter Rising was a rebellion staged in Ireland against British rule. Despite its military failure, it can be judged as being a significant stepping-stone in the eventual creation of what we know now as the Irish Republic. They took advantage of the battles that were taking place in the rest of Europe.

Éamon de Valera was one of the dominant political figures in 20th C. in Ireland. He was a significant leader of Ireland's independence from the United Kingdom of Great Britain. He ended his political career as President of Ireland (1959-1975).

From 1917 to 1921, the Sinn Féin, founded one year before by É. de Valera, wins the election except in the Ulster because the Ulster is mostly Protestant. In 1919, the Irish deputies decided not to occupy their seats in Westminster and constituted an Irish Assembly in Dublin. The Independence War began.

The IRA (Irish Republican Army, successor to the Irish Volunteers) considered as a paramilitary group by those who supported the cause of independence and treated as a terrorist group by those who were opposed, fought against the British Army.

In 1921 the Independence War ended thanks to the Partition Treaty. This treaty supposed the creation of two territories in Ireland: Northern Ireland, which remained part of the UK and the Irish Free State, at that stage a dominion of the British Crown to become later a Republic.

The Unionist Party (mostly Protestants) monopolized politic power and Catholic demanded the integration of the Ulster into the Free State. Trying to get equality, the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was formed.

In 1968, Catholics planned a peaceful Civil Rights Demonstration that was brutally attacked by the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary), Ulster's Protestant Police Force.

“The Troubles”, as ironically British call to centuries of violent fight and thousands of victims, became worst. Continuous and violent battles made that the British Government saw the situation out of control; so in 1969, the British troops were settled in the Ulster.

The IRA, whose initial aim was to protect the Catholics, later began a terrorist campaign of bombings, assassinations and murders of RUC personnel.

Few years later, there were thousands of soldiers settled in Northern Ireland fighting a guerrilla war against the IRA.

The British introduced Internment. This extreme measure was a huge mistake because it gave the IRA fantastic publicity and hundreds of new members. This is the case of the main character of the short story.

“… `The army have introduced internment in Belfast,´ […]`We went home a few days later and I walked into a house in Adersontown of a man I knew: `Is there any thing for me to do?´ […] And that was how I became involved.´…” (page 335)

As the situation was out of control, the British Government decided to build the so called Peace Lines separating Protestant and Catholic Neighbourhoods. Most of them are in Belfast, but also in Derry and elsewhere in Northern Ireland. These walls were built at the end of the 60's and they only contributed to ghettoisation.

In January 30th of 1972, took place a tragic event known as Bloody Sunday which was another peaceful demonstration for Civil Rights. British military forces killed thirteen Catholic demonstrators in Derry. Two months later, London postponed Ulster's internal autonomy for a year.

One year later, during the Sunningdale Conference, there was a negotiation to form a shared-power Government (Unionist-Republicans). They did not get it because of a Protestant strike.

In 1981 IRA's prisoners started a hunger strike because of the UK's imprisonment policy. Nine men died.

Ten year later, negotiations for peace failed. In 1993, in Downing Street's Statement British Government admitted for the first time the right of the Irish to political self-determination without British intervention. One year later, Provisional IRA declared a ceasefire. IRA is divided into two branches from 1969. These are the Official IRA, which deals with politics and Provisional IRA, which deals with religious matters.

In 1998 the Belfast Agreement returned self-government on the basis of power-sharing. This Government was formed by the four main parties. In 2002, this power-sharing Government was suspended by the British Government with the pretext that Provisional IRA did not disarmed fully.

Just few months ago, Provisional IRA was completely disarmed; but the Democratic Unionist Party still refused to accept the Republican claim that the “war was over”.


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

Mapping is other way of colonisation by renaming the roads and streets of Ireland by the English Army in 19th C. This was a process in which the native Irish culture (Gaelic) is literally overwritten by English imperialism.

In the short story we can find references to the role of the native guide (Finn) who leads the “explorer” to the interior.

“…He stopped me and asked if I'd show him around the Falls. He felt uneasy, being an Englishman, and he didn't know his way around without a map. I said I'd be happy to…” (page 331)


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

Naming is used as a way of self-protection. During the police interrogation, Finnula is trying to protect the members of the IRA giving just names of the streets which had been beated.

“…`Miss McQuillen, I wonder if you wouldn't mind answering a few questions?´ […] Osman, Serbia, Sultan, Raglan, Bosnia, Belgrade, Rumania, Sebastopol. […]` No. Those are the streets of west Belfast.´ Alma, Omar, Conway and Dunlewey, Dunville, Lady and McDonnell.´…” (page 329)

“… It is not the people but the streets I name…” (page 338)

Protecting the members of IRA, Finnula is also protecting the Catholic Community (her neighbours, friends and family). In some way, everyone is involved, giving moral support, occasional help, collaboration, etc. Catholic population of Northern Ireland is suffering discrimination in their daily life and all of them wish this situation changes. Within the short story there is a clear reference to these relations among Catholic population.

“… Sometimes a passer-by would stop and take my hand, but most times the younger brother of the family who owned the bacon shop would cross with me. […] I remember standing in the sawdust-filled shop waiting for him to finish his task - the smooth hiss of the slicing machine and the thin strips of bacon falling past on the greaseproof paper…” (pages 326-327) […] “…He was shot in the back. He was a well-known member of the Provisional IRA on the run. […]His father was the man who carried my grandmother out of Conway Street. He used to own a bacon shop…” (page 335).


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

The elements of the title are important issues in the story (“names” and “naming”). The narrator uses the whole title “Naming the Names” as a kind of summary of the story at the end. With this technique the author emphasizes the meaning of the title: “empty and broken beaten places. I know no others. Gone and going all the time.” (page 339)



'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

  • Official History versus Her Story

It is interesting to comment on a series of parallelisms in the story to make the reader see some of the conflicts present in it. To make a reasonable connection between them, we could group them as follows:

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
Official History versus Her Story


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
Official Texts versus Granny's Oral Stories

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
Values versus Love


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
Country versus Men

In general, the first case has to do with the well-known conflict derived from the different interpretations of History, which has always been written by the winners. In the story, we find a clear example of this when we see the way Finnula's granny and the Judge's son interpret history (English `Official' History / Oral Stories based on personal experience).

The second instance deals with the problem of not being able to join two responsibilities that cannot be together. This problem raises an internal struggle, pushing her to prioritise (her country or men?).

It might be argued that this conflict exists because politics and personal life cannot have a joint existence, but it also might be argued that they cannot be separated because they are the same thing.

At this point, and having analysed the parallelisms and conflicts derived from them, other issue comes along: her internal conflict and that of the country. Her internal struggle, that which pushes her to prioritise, affects Northern Ireland's people in the same way. They must set priorities because they cannot make up their minds when forced to decide.

Gender matters are an important part of the story, and it is significant to comment on them. As a way of explaining their meaning and importance within the story, we have associated them with the different political and religious ideologies which affect them in one way or another.

  • Women's Role in the Fight

Women's position in the fight is far from important: they are in charge of the “household chores”, mainly as caretakers. In Finnula's case, she has to use her female weapons to “attract” an IRA's target. The narrator provides us with some explanatory examples:

`… the women's section has been disbanded during the previous year because there was nothing for them to do but run around after the men and make tea for the ceilidhs'. (Page 331)

`My first job was during internment. Someone would come into the shop, the paymaster, he gave me money to deliver once a week to the wives of the men interned'. (Page 336)

  • Women's Roles within catholic Ideology

To illustrate this point, we have chosen an extract from the catholic encyclopaedia which states (although not very clearly) what the Catholic Church thinks women's roles should be.

`The life-task of a woman is a double one:

  • As an individual woman has the high destiny obligatory upon every human being of acquiring moral perfection.

  • As a member of the human race woman is called in union with man to represent humanity and to develop it on all sides.

Both tasks are indissolubly united, so that the one cannot be fully accomplished without the other. The freedom of the woman consists in the possibility of fulfilling unimpeded this double task with its rights and privileges both in public and private life.'

  • Catholicism and Feminism

In Patrick Grant's book `Breaking Enmities: Religion, Literature and Culture in Northern Ireland', there is a great deal of information about this topic. We have selected some extracts to explain these relations from both catholic and feminist point of view.

`In the Republic, feminists reacted especially against the illiberalism of the 1937 constitution which held that the common good requires the support provided by women's life within the home, and the state must therefore do its best to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home. To encourage compliance, the state required women to resign from civil service jobs upon marriage , and a host of restrictions on welfare, rights of inheritance, contraception, and divorce further ensured that women would find it difficult to stray from their assigned domain'.

`These definitions of women's place were engineered mainly by Eamon de Valera and his chief adviser, John Charles Mcquaid, who later became Archbishop of Dublin. Church and state thus joined forces, combining de Valera's ideal of the dutiful homemaker with the church's cult of the virgin, patient amidst the tribulations of this world, passive and obedient to God's law'.

As Margaret Ward puts it, `The tragedy of partition in Ireland has incalculable consequences in enabling the hegemony of catholic social doctrine to be implemented almost without challenge, and to the singular disadvantage of women'.

  • Relations Men - Women as Colonisers - Colonised

To explain this point we have decided to use a theory of a reputed Indian political psychologist and sociologist: Ashis Nandi's Double Colonisation Theory (`Colonised men, colonise the women').

`They (men) inflict the same oppression that they themselves had endured, and unable to break the entail of scapegoating and violence. All too frequently, women's contributions during the early phase of rebellion and national liberation are neutralised by the new state that goes on ruling in the only way it knows how'.

We find this theory explained within the Irish context, in words of the Irish feminist and writer Geraldine Meaney. To her, this process is especially evident in `the sexual conservatism and political stagnation of post-independence Ireland', and that women are `the scapegoats of national identity' (symbols of the nation over which men exercise power).

  • Male - Female Relationships in the story

Within the context of gender matters, it is essential to analyse the relations men - women in the story, in order to understand more or less some of the theoretical approaches we have just put forward.

Finnula - Jack: we could define this relationship in terms of miscommunication, ambivalence and even selfishness.

Jack's economic status is higher than hers, so he believes his responsibility as a man is to preserve her well-being (`Finn, for God's sake! Get yourself a flat somewhere out of it! I don't imagine I'll be coming back. He said: If you need any money, write to me').

He seems to be imperturbable and tolerant towards Finnula's violent reactions, but what his silence shows is indifference about the relationship (`I'd thrown milk over him once, some of it went on the floors and walls, and then I ran out of the house. When I came back he'd changed his clothes and mopped up the floor. Another time I'd smashed all the dinner dishes against the kitchen wall and locked myself in the bathroom, when I came out he had swept up all the plates and asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. He was a very good journalist, I think, but somehow I never talked to him about anything important', `I'm afraid I'm rather ambivalent about this relationship').

Finnula - Judge's Son: this relationship could be described in terms of conflict, lie, self-interest and suffering.

She is supposed to be unhappy because it is `not fair' to her that he is in England. The point here is that it is not fair to women to be without men in their lives (`Why didn't you call me? I asked, listlessly, my head down in case he saw my eyes. / Because I didn't think it was fair to you. / Fair?')

Confusion of feelings: he is getting married, but doesn't want to leave her, especially when Finn says she is `in love' with him. We know there is an affective connection between them, although it is not very clear (let's call it love or `affective link').

Now it is time to take up again the topic of religion. This time we try to focus on the problems derived from mixing politics and religious ideologies, as well as how these problems have influenced Irish people, and also the use or religion as a distinctive trait in Northern Ireland.

  • Catholic Ideology - National Submission - Martyrdom

As a way of analysing the process by means of which religious ideology and political ideas become intermixed forming the so-called “political martyrdom”, we have decided, as a starting point, to define what submission is, from the Christian point of view (taken from “on-line Christian catechism”):

`Christian submission must not be equated with servility but rather with a proper attitude of humility and consideration'.

With this definition in mind we can say that, for the Christians, submissions is resignation, this is, to become a victim, and becoming a victim implies sacrifice. When victimisation, extreme nationalism and a religious ideology converge, we have as a result Political Martyrdom.

  • Martyrdom: An Irish Obsession

As a way of getting a better understanding of what a martyr is, we have selected some extracts from the Catholic Encyclopaedia to illustrate this point:

`The Greek word martus signifies a witness who testifies to a fact of which [s]he has knowledge from personal observation.

Within the lifetime of the Apostles, the term martus came to be used in the sense of a witness who at any time might be called upon to deny what [s]he testified to, under penalty of death. From this stage the transition was easy to the ordinary meaning of the term, as used ever since in Christian literature: a martyr, or witness of Christ, is a person who, though [s]he has never seen nor heard the Divine Founder of the Church, is yet so firmly convinced of the truths of the Christian religion, that [s]he gladly suffers death rather than deny it'.

In the Irish case, as well as in many other nationalist ideologies, martyrs `gladly suffer death' on behalf of their people, on behalf of the Nation. This is what they call “Red Martyrdom” (blood has been shed). But the Irish have more than one kind of martyrdom:

`Deprived of red martyrdom as the Irish termed it, they created two new kinds of martyrdom, green and white. Green martyrdom was exile into the rural areas of Ireland. The purpose of green martyrdom was to provide a quiet life in which one could meditate on God. White martyrdom was exiles as well, but not into the heart of Ireland. It was exile to a new country. White martyrs left Ireland, never to return, to spread the gospel among other nations. Both of these approaches were ways to demonstrate devotion to God'.

The important fact here is that Finnula is herself a martyr: she has to sacrifice her `love' for the sake of her country.

The word `martyrdom' is also mentioned in the story: when Sharleen is looking for `murders for my granny', she thinks that one book called “Murder in the Cathedral” is a murder story, but Chrissie corrects her `It is a play about - Chrissie hesitated - martyrdom!'

  • Religion as a distinctive trait

We found a very clear explanation of this point in Patrick Grant's book “Rhetoric and Violence in Northern Ireland”:

`… the Northern Ireland Troubles can best be understood as an ethnic conflict in which religion is a principal marker of identity (religion, that is, as an indicator of one's lineage, regardless of whether or not one is a believer). Violence, then, especially confirms ethnic differences, creating force-fields of hatred and loathing of the “other community” in general, that no political process will easily dispel'.

The point here is that religion in Northern Ireland tends to be regarded as a marker of ethnic identity, but there are also complex cross-currents between a religious faith based on an understanding of Jesus' teachings, and the feeling of belonging to a community where religion is a distinctive trait.

In the story, when Chrissie leaves Mrs. O' Hare and Finnula to `renew her suntan', Mrs. O'Hare says something that is relevant to this point:

`Don't take what she says too much to heart. She's Jewish, you know. She doesn't understand'.

She doesn't understand because she's Jewish. Why can't she understand the conflict? Because for Mrs. O'Hare, she has to belong to the community (catholic in this case) to know and understand what is happening. So, it is not a question of faith, just of belonging.


'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
Grant, Patrick, Rhetoric and Violence in Northern Ireland, 2001, Palgrave Macmillan.

Grant, Patrick, Breaking Enmities: Religion, Literature and Culture in Northern Ireland, 1999, Palgrave Macmillan.

Thomas E. Hachey, Lawrence J. McCaffrey, Joseph M. Hermon, The Irish Experience: A Concise History, 1996.

Web Resources

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
Catholic Encyclopaedia (

The Sabbath School Network and Bible Study Center web page (

'Naming the names; Anne Devlin'
WIKIPEDIA, The Free Encyclopaedia (

Enviado por:El remitente no desea revelar su nombre
Idioma: inglés
País: España

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