Saor Éire (1967–75)

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


It was formed in 1967 by ex IRA members who left in protest in the early sixties over lack of military action. its leaders included Peter Graham, Frank Keane (Former Commandant of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA), Liam Walsh, Joe Dillon and Martin Casey and Maureen Keegan of the Young Socialists. It recruited members of the Marxist Irish Workers Group.[2]

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.

Deaglán de Bréadún of the Irish Times writes that the group "probably never numbered more than a few dozen activists."[3]


  • In August 1967: Saor Éire member Frank Keane attempted to burn down the Fianna Fail party HQ.[2]
  • 19 April 1968: Joe Dillon and three others robbed the Royal Bank of Ireland in Drumcondra where 3,186 was stolen.[2]
  • 20 June 1968: A Hibernian bank in Newbridge, Kildare was robbed, 3174 was taken. [2]
  • March 1969: A robbery in Newry netted £22,000, the biggest single haul from a robbery in the country at the time.
  • 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]
  • 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.[4] 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 Martin Casey in London buying arms during the period before the Arms Trial.[4][2]The government has refused to hold a public inquiry into the matter and possible State collusion with members of the organisation.[4]
  • July 1970: the offices of Dalton Supplies in County Wicklow were bombed, there were no casualties or injuries. The group sent a statement to the newspapers saying it was bombed to force the company to accept the proposals of the Labour Court on behalf of the workers. [2]
  • 13 October 1970: Liam Walsh died in a premature bomb explosion on a railway embankment in Dublin while Martin Casey was critically injured [2]
  • 25 October 1971: Peter Graham assassinated in Dublin in what was referred to at the time as an internecine dispute about a large sum of money. His killers were never found. 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.[5]

Saor Éire was officially disbanded in 1975, although it remains a Proscribed Organisation in the United Kingdom under the Terrorism Act 2000.[6]


  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 d e f g "Badfellas". 
  3. ^
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Ireland on Sunday, 1 October 2006. A copy of the photograph is available here.
  6. ^ Schedule 2, Terrorism Act 2000, Act No. 11 of 2000

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