- For the paramilitary group of the 1960s and 1970s see Saor Éire (1967-1975).
Saor Éire (IPA: [s̪ˠɯɾˠ eːɾʲə] / [s̪ˠiːɾˠ eːɾʲə], meaning Free Ireland) was a left-wing political organisation established in September 1931 by communist-leaning members of the Irish Republican Army, with the backing of the IRA leadership. Notable among its founders was Peadar O'Donnell, former editor of An Phoblacht and a leading left-wing figure in the IRA. Saor Éire described itself as "an organization of workers and working farmers".
Other notable active members of Saor Éire included George Gilmore, Frank Ryan, David Fitzgerald, Seán Hayes, Mick Fitzpatrick, Seán MacBride, Sheila Humphreys and Mick Hallissey. It has been suggested that the support of the then IRA chief of staff, Moss (Maurice) Twomey, was instrumental in the organisation's establishment. During its short existence Saor Éire used the republican publication An Phoblacht, under the editorship of Frank Ryan, to report on its progress and to promote its radical, left-wing republican views.
On the weekend of 26 to 27 of September 1931, Saor Éire held its first conference in Dublin at Iona Hall. One hundred and fifty delegates from both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland attended the conference against a background of police raids on the houses and offices connected with Saor Éire and An Phoblacht. Seán Hayes was chairman, while David Fitzgerald acted as secretary. The constitution listed the organisation’s objectives as being:
- To achieve an independent revolutionary leadership for the working class and working farmers towards the overthrow of British imperialism and its ally, Irish capitalism.
- To organise and consolidate the Republic of Ireland on the basis of the possession and administration by the workers and working farmers, of the land, instruments of production, distribution, and exchange.
- To restore and foster the Irish language, culture, and games.
The constitution elaborated upon the aims by describing a two-phase programme. The first phase was described as being one of organisation and propagandising in order to organise a solid front for mass resistance to the oppressors. This would build upon the day-to-day resistance and activity towards "rents, annuities, evictions, seizures, bank sales, lock-outs, strikes and wage-cuts." This challenge, it was believed, would lead to power passing from the hands of the imperialists to the masses. The second phase was one of consolidation of power through the organisation of the economy and a workers' and working farmers' republic.
Ideologically Saor Éire adhered to the Irish socialist republicanism developed by James Connolly and Peadar O'Donnell. As a consequence of the heavy influence of O'Donnell, Saor Éire strongly advocated the revival of Gaelic culture and the involvement of the poorer rural working communities in any rise against the Irish capitalist institutions and British imperialism.
The organisation was attacked by the centre-right press and the Catholic Church as a dangerous communist group, and was quickly banned by the Free State government. The strength of reaction against it prevented it becoming an effective political organisation. O'Donnell and his supporters would attempt a similar initiative two years later with the establishment of the Republican Congress in 1933.
- Hanley, Brian, "Moss Twomey, radicalism, and the IRA, 1931-33: a reassessment", Saothar, vol. 26 (2001), p. 53
- An Phoblacht, 17 October 1931
- An Phoblacht, 10 October 1931
- Constitution (Amendment No. 17) Bill, 1931—Allocation of Time Motion. Dáil Éireann Debate, Vol. 40 No. 1 Wednesday, 14 October 1931