Is Frankie McGuire Based on a Real IRA member?

The 1997 thriller ‘The Devil’s Own’ follows a Provisional Irish Republican Army terrorist, Frankie McGuire, as he takes a trip to New York City from Ireland in the hopes of acquiring missiles that will aid in the fight back home. As a high-profile IRA member, Frankie is constantly on the run from the British Army, who have made it their objective to bring his time to an end. So, with the walls closing in on him, he is forced to follow a desperate plan of action to make sure the IRA doesn’t secede any more ground to the British army. Digging into Frankie’s roots in the IRA raises the question about his real persona, compelling viewers to wonder if the villain protagonist is based on any real IRA members.

Exploring the Fictional Identity of Frankie McGuire

Frankie McGuire is a fictional IRA member conceived by screenwriters Kevin Jarre, David Aaron Cohen, and Vincent Patrick when they penned the story for ‘The Devil’s Own.’ In an attempt to explore the politically controversial situation that was taking place in Northern Ireland, producers Lawrence Gordon and Robert F. Colesberry pitched their idea to the writer. They had their sights set on probing into the Provisional Irish Republican Army’s plight through the eyes of one of its members. Hence, where the genesis of Frankie McGuire as a fully realized IRA member embroiled in conflict came from.

The thriller greatly emphasizes Frankie’s dilemmas as he travels to New York City. On a mission to acquire Stinger missiles that will aid in the battle back home, Frankie gets pulled into a deeper mess when he gets Sergeant Tom O’Meara, his house host in New York, similarly entangled in a plot of political and national magnitude. Even as he moonlights as an innocent immigrant, the film makes it clear that Frankie’s engagement with the IRA is what defines him as a person. From the death of his father to his adulthood in the IRA ranks, Frankie has built his identity around his political sentiments.

While there is no Frankie McGuire in reality, the roots of his name can be traced to an Irish Republican politician, Frank Maguire. Born into a Republican family, not dissimilar to Frankie’s own heritage in that regard, Maguire served as a member of the British Parliament. His views were Republican, although he operated independently from any political party affiliations. Interestingly, Maguire did serve in the Irish Republican Army in his early years, something the man shares with Frankie. However, Maguire eventually cut his ties with them as he moved on to other things.

During those early years, Maguire was attracted to the cause of Irish Republicanism. For multiple years, he interned without any trial at the Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast as an IRA Commanding Officer. So, like Frankie, Maguire had come into contact with the Provisional Irish Republican Army and even served in it. It was only after he was released from jail that Maguire denounced his views on violence, vehemently opposed it, and left the IRA ranks. His Republican views stayed with him until his later years when he joined the British Parliament as an Independent member. Consequently, outside of the similar names and history with the IRA, Maguire and Brad Pitt’s Frankie seem to share little in common.

Frankie’s conflict within ‘The Devil’s Own’ is exacerbated by his political zeal. For him, the cause is everything. The film sets its present-day narrative during the 90s, an era when “The Troubles” conflict was still at its height in Northern Ireland. From late 1960 up until 1998, the fight for Northern Ireland’s freedom had dissolved into an “irregular war” raging between the Irish nationalists and Republicans on one side and everyone else on the other. Frankie is born right in the middle of it, and his motivations and identity remain intertwined with the country’s political conflicts.

The character’s internal strife is laid bare through the course of the movie as he spirals into desperation for a far-fetched plan to acquire the Stinger missiles, no matter the cost. It’s almost as if he ties the survival of his faction and his people to the fate of those missiles. With the memory of his father’s death driving him and the friends in the IRA whom he lost along the way, he believes that the least he can do is give up his own life for the cause he has devoted his entire existence to. Therefore, even though Frankie McGuire is not a real person, his actions and motivations are certainly rooted in reality.

Read more: Best Movies About Politics on Netflix