Interview with Liam Sutcliffe – veteran socialist-republican

The interview below with Liam Sutcliffe, an IRA activist in the 1950s and 1960s and a leading figure in Saor Eire, was conducted and filmed by irish revolution contributor Mick HealyBas Ó Curraoin did the editing and added photos and music.  There’s a point in the interview about Liam Walsh’s death and whether it was 1970 or 1971; it was in October, 1970 (he died in a premature explosion).

We’ve also been working on doing an interview with Frank Keane, who was O/C Dublin Brigade during part of the 1960s and a founding leader of Saor Eire.

Posted on May 2, 2013, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, éirígí, Border Campaign/Operation Harvest, British state repression (general), General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Interviews, Irish politics today, Officials, Partition, Political education and theory, Provos - then and now, Repression and resistance in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, Social conditions. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.

  1. Maith thu- Wonderful interview! Do you mind if I repost this to my 50’s campaign blog?

    I’m looking forward to the one on Keane, glad someone is finally recording the stories of the Christle/ Saor Eire men, they’ve been too long ignored.

  2. I agree absolutely.

    Mick Healy and I have the questions ready for Frank and Mick is underway with the interview.

    One thing about the Liam Sutcliffe interview is that, although it is full of fascinating anecdotes, Liam is very brief on the politics of Saor Eire. More or less, we got together and gave it a go!

    I’m quite keen to have a chat with him about his impressions of the politics of the Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and how Saor Eire fitted in (and didn’t fit in).

    It’s incredible that these folks have been just sitting there in Dublin for decades and largely ignored. I guess they don’t fit in to either major narrative – the Sticks or the Provos – so they’ve just ended up being ignored or even airbrushed out of history.

    I think it’s really important to acknowledge them and give them their due.

    This whole thing actually arose out of a piece that Mick wrote about Saor Eire and then he ran into Frank Keane at the Gery Lawless commemoration in the Teachers Club last year. I have mixed views about Lawless because he ended up in the British Labour Party, but I’ve recently finished a book about internment over the decades and Lawless’ case to Europe during the Border Campaign was actually quite important in terms of highlighting the issue and making the Free Staters sweat a bit.


    • I agree! his mention of what he did in and after saor eire is fascinating but brief- probably made more so by the way the garda hauled him in over the pillar.

      One question you might want to ask is how they helped Saor Uladh. I’ve been trying to get a similar project off the ground regarding SU and hear the Christle Group acted as a sort of backup for them, sending men up for large operations and carrying out raids on southern explosive depots.

      Irelands politics and history is really a survival of the loudest, the ones that don’t speak up get brushed aside by the careerists- which men like Sutcliffe aren’t. Glad youse took the initiative to do this while they’re still with us.

  3. I’ve been thinking that maybe it would be good for interested folks to get together and plan some kind of oral history project with a number of folks – LS, FK, others from Saor Eire, survivors from Saor Uladh and maybe try to produce a pamphlet or short book. I think there would definitely be interest in such a publication, especially if it were backed up with some video material too.


  4. Email me at and put att: Phil in the subject, and I can get back to you fairly quickly.

    I’ve just noticed that you have a blog, so I’ll put a link to it.

    If you’d like, you could write a little article about your blog and what you’re doing with it and I’ll stick it up here.


  5. Miceal we have started the edit on the keane video it should be finish next week. We will let Frank have a look and if he is happy up it goes.

    Rayner Lysaght has recorded an interview that will be up on the web soon. Rayner tells his story that is fascinating.

    Liam wanted to tell his story as the solder, he did not want to talk about politics on this interview. We hope to do more interviews like the one on Liam Sutcliffe.

    Joe Keegan, brother of Mairin, is the link to the SE people; without him there would not have been an interview. Irish Republicans are very secretive people, you have to win their trust.

    This project started after I wrote about Peter Graham and Mairin Keegan on the 40th anniversary of their deaths. This blog put the articles up. This was my first contact with Philip.

    I met the Saor Eire vets at Gerry Lawless wake in Dublin in 2012. I asked Keane would he do an interview he agreed. Philip helped with questions and it was Bas O Curraoin who suggested a recorded rather than a written interview. Bas lent me his recorder and he would do the edit on the video.

    There are some very interesting comments about Saor Eire on the blog Come Here to me.
    Saor Eire bankrobber in Liverpool.

    • Hi Mick

      I’m your man rightalright on that thread lol

      Yes, the soldier aspect was one thing I liked very much- the politics have been done to death by others imo.

      It sounds like you have something with real potential going! Is there chance of an interview with Joe keegan do you think? His would be interesting, in addition to giving insight into his sister’s story

      Beir bua- Miceal

  6. Yes Joe Keegan has said he will do an interview. He will give a better insight into his sister’s life. In addition about the left republican people that were in and out of their home in Harold’s Cross because of her like Gerry Lawless.

    I am meeting Frank this morning to give him the DVD about his life. We hope that he will let us put it up on the web. A great interview with very smart man.


  7. When you said Is there chance of an interview with Joe keegan .If you men’t that you would like to interview him . There would not be a prob with Joe.
    My interview is about his life so like everyone he had to think about it.

    • Not at all, was just wondering if youse were going to!

      The only thing I would ask them if I had the chance is, like I said to Phil, what role they had with Saor uladh- there was a meeting between them and Kelly’s men at one point, and then afterwards they helped blow up customs huts in 56, and another time a collum under Lawless was sent to help seal off a town for an Eater commemoration- don’t know if its anything they’d want to talk about but its an important part of the Saor Uladh story.

  8. Will add the question what role Christle group had with Kell’s- Saor uladh to Joe Keegan.

  9. Philip what number one question would you ask the veteran Socialist Republicans?

  10. Probably what conclusions about the struggle long-term they draw from their own time and experience.

    It would be excellent if eirigi could organise a public meeting in Dublin some time about the movement from around the time of the preparations for the Border Campaign to the early 1970s, that would cover both the IRA/SF on the one hand and the SU and SE groups on the other hand, with folks like Liam S and Frank K speaking. It might be possible to find a surviving SU member somewhere too who could speak.

    Perhaps we could suggest this to eirigi.


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