In the Name of the Father (1993)

in the name of the father

In the Name of the Father is a British-Irish-US motion picture, directed by Jim Sheridan and released in 1993. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Gerry Conlon, Pete Postlethwaite as Giuseppe Conlon, Emma Thompson as Gareth Pierce and John Lynch as Paul Hill.

In the Name of the Father is based on the story of the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven, civilians from Northern Ireland who were wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for terrorism offences. The film focuses on Gerry Conlon, a Belfast petty criminal who is caught up in the Troubles despite having no political affiliations.

In 1974, Conlon and his friend Paul Hill travel to England seeking work. While they are in London, members of the Provisional IRA bomb two pubs in Guildford, killing five people and injuring dozens more. Conlon returns to Belfast after stealing cash from a prostitute. He becomes a suspect in the Guildford pub bombings and is arrested during a police raid. Members of Conlon’s family are also arrested, including his father Giuseppe and his aunt Anne Maguire.

While in police custody, Conlon and Hill are subjected to days of ferocious interrogation, including physical abuse and threats against family members. They eventually relent and sign confessions to the Guildford pub bombings. Conlon, Hill and two others are convicted and handed life sentences; the judge tells the four he would send them to the gallows if the option was available to him.

Conlon’s father and the Maguires (dubbed the Maguire Seven) are convicted of supporting terrorism and given prison terms of up to 14 years. Giuseppe Conlon becomes terminally ill and dies in prison in January 1980.

Later, with the help of solicitor Gareth Pierce, Gerry Conlon takes up his father’s mission to force a retrial. While examining police records Pierce discovers that critical evidence verifying Gerry Conlon’s alibi on the night of the bombings was concealed by police. A retrial is held and the Guildford Four are acquitted after being unjustly imprisoned for 14 years.

In the Name of the Father was released to critical praise and acclaim. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including best picture, best director and three acting awards. It is a powerful and at times moving film that depicts discrimination, injustice, suffering and determination.

The film is not without its historical inaccuracies or flaws. Significant elements of the Conlons’ story are not shown. Important events are either simplified, condensed or heavily fictionalised. The final courtroom scenes trade factual accuracy for dramatic effect. Gareth Pierce was a solicitor, not a barrister, so did not address the judge or cross-examine witnesses. There was no intense confrontation between Pierce, the judge and police officers in the dock. Gerry Conlon did not stride triumphantly from court atop the benches. Members of the Provisional IRA are shown briefly but simplistically, either threatening violence or carrying it out.

Events in Northern Ireland certainly provide a context for the injustices depicted in In the Name of the Father but political issues are not discussed or explored. Though entertaining and superbly acted, it offers little in the way of background to the Troubles.

Citation information
Title: “In the Name of the Father (1993)”
Authors: Jennifer Llewellyn, Steve Thompson
Publisher: Alpha History
Date published: February 16, 2018
Date accessed: May 24, 2023
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