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The Martyr


1923 –and Ireland is at war! Government—Free State—forces and Republican volunteers who control Ireland’s south, battle to control the country’s destiny. In Liam O’Flaherty’s novel, "The Martyr" (1933), banned in Ireland, Free State forces land on the Kerry coast and target Tralee, O’Flaherty’s “Sallytown”. Events around the Free State troop landing and its sequel are seen through the eyes of Sallytown’s defenders and its townspeople, clerical and lay. In the author’s fictional reconstruction of this real Civil War encounter, professional Free State troops face Sallytown’s ill-trained, badly-led and poorly equipped volunteer defenders. The total ineffectuality of Sallytown’s Republican leader relates to his obsession with Catholic nationalist ideology. A dialogue between him and a Free State army torturer paves the way for the novel’s startling ending.


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