Saor Éire (1967–75)

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Saor Éire (pronounced [s̪ˠɯɾˠ eːɾʲə] or [s̪ˠiːɾˠ eːɾʲə], meaning Free Ireland) was an armed, radical Irish republican organisation composed of Trotskyists and ex-IRA members. It took its name from a similar organisation of the 1930s.[1]


Formed in 1967, its leaders included Peter Graham and Maureen Keegan of the Young Socialists (originally the youth wing of the Irish Labour Party), Gerry Lawless of the Irish Workers Group, and Frank Keane, former Commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA. Graham was a member of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, and Keegan was active in Paris in May 1968. Saor Éire was intended as an urban guerrilla group. Its leaders believed that the working class was key to the armed struggle. Its sole political statement was the Saor Éire Manifesto published in May 1971 (printed by the Red Mole).

Between 1967 and 1970, Saor Éire carried out a number of bank robberies, the proceeds being used to purchase arms. The group provided arms, training and funding to nationalists in Northern Ireland after the outbreak of the Troubles in 1969. A raid on two banks in Newry in County Down in March 1969 netted £22,000, the biggest single haul from a robbery in the country at the time. In February 1970 the group took over the village of Rathdrum in County Wicklow, stopping traffic and cutting phone lines, and robbed the local bank.[1]

On 3 April 1970, in the course of a bank robbery in Dublin, a police officer, Garda Richard Fallon, was shot and killed. He was the first member of the Irish security forces to die in the Troubles. Allegations of government connections with Saor Éire were made in the Dáil (legislature) immediately afterwards and over the following years.[2] Three men, Sean Morrissey, Patrick Francis Keane and Joseph Dillon were tried for the murder and were acquitted.[1]

Over thirty years after his death, the family of Garda Fallon accused the government of assisting members of Saor Éire in escaping after the murder.[1] Previously secret government files made available in 2006 confirmed the sighting of Pádraig "Jock" Haughey, brother of the former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, in the company of a member of Saor Éire in London during the period before the Arms Trial.[2] The government has refused to hold a public inquiry into the matter and possible State collusion with members of the organisation.[2]

On 13 October 1970 Liam Walsh, a member of Saor Éire, died in a premature bomb explosion on a railway embankment in Dublin.

Peter Graham was assassinated in Dublin on 25 October 1971 in what was referred to at the time as an internecine dispute about a large sum of money. His killers were never brought to justice. Among the mourners at his funeral, along with leading republicans and left-wingers, were Tariq Ali of the International Marxist Group and Charlie Bird, previously a member of the Young Socialists and later a news correspondent for RTÉ television. A photograph of the funeral shows Ali and Bird giving a clenched fist salute at the grave.[3]

Maureen Keegan died of cancer in 1972. By then many of the members believed that the organisation had been taken over by gangsters and was losing sight of its original objectives. Saor Éire prisoners in Portlaoise Prison issued a statement on 18 May 1973 announcing their resignation from the organisation because of the actions of 'undesirable elements'.

On 10 June 1975, Larry White, a leading Saor Éire activist from Cork was shot several times on Mount Eden Road. He died of his injuries a short time later.[4] The Official IRA are widely believed to have been responsible for the killing with a number of members claiming that White had aided the INLA in shooting and injuring Sean Garland in Ballymun in March of that year.[5] In 1976 a number of members of the Official republican movement were convicted of the murder of Larry White, among them Bernard Lynch[6] (the husband of Labour party TD Kathleen Lynch). The case was later quashed on the basis that evidence given at the original trial was no longer admissible.[7]

Saor Éire was officially disbanded in 1975, although it remains a Proscribed Organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d Liz Walsh: The Final Beat, Gardaí Killed in the Line of Duty (Gill and Macmillan, Dublin. 2001).
  2. ^ a b c Irish Examiner, Reporter (18 April 2009). "After 39 years, truth about death of brave garda must finally be told". Irish Examiner. Retrieved 6 July 2009. 
  3. ^ Ireland on Sunday, 1 October 2006. A copy of the photograph is available here.
  4. ^ Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland, CAIN. Retrieved 2 February 2010.
  5. ^ Hanley & Millar, pgs. 299–301
  6. ^ Family of murdered republican calls for removal of Minister's assistant by Paul Cullen, The Irish Times – Saturday, 25 June 2011
  7. ^ "Bernard Lynch serves as assistant to his junior minister wife". MailOnline. 19 June 2011. 
  8. ^ Schedule 2, Terrorism Act 2000, Act No. 11 of 2000

External links

  • The Blanket – A Little Known Republican Military Group: Saor Eire
  • video showing an interview with a member of Saor Eire
  • Peter Graham Funeral, 30 October 1971, Dublin Opinion Blog. Retrieved 2010-02-02.
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