Saor Eire’s 1968 raid on the Hibernian Bank in Newbridge, Co. Kildare

by Mick Healy

photo: Mick Healy

After a raid on the National Bank in Kells, Co, Meath in 1969, Saor Eire issued their first official statement to the press claiming responsibility for the robbery and describing themselves as the Saor Eire Action Group. They signed the statement as Michael Price, using the name of the 1930s socialist-republican leader and claiming that the money would be used to finance a movement which would strive for a Workers’ Republic.

The organisation had already become partly known, however, for daring bank raids.  They had commenced expropriations from Irish banks with a raid on the Royal Bank in Drumcondra, on February 27, 1967. This was followed by raiding a Munster and Leinster Bank in Tallaght on April 11, 1968.

On Tuesday, June 20, 1968, three armed raiders wearing false beards including Sean (‘Ructions’) Doyle, a veteran from Operation Harvest (the 1956-1962 IRA Border Campaign), entered the Hibernian Bank in Charlotte Street, Droichead Nua (Newbridge).  Shouting “this is a hold-up”, they held the manager, Michael Waldron, and the bank employees at gun point while searching unsuccessfully for a Free State Army payroll that, according to their intelligence, was destined for the Curragh Army Camp. While one man guarded the door, his two comrades vaulted the counter and empted £3,474 of bank-cash into a large bag.

However, an employee at nearby Sloan’s Drapery shop, Cathal Henry, became suspicious of the strangers who entered the bank and he approached a man outside the bank standing beside the get-away car. This man produced a gun and roughly escorted Henry inside the bank to join the staff and customers. Hearing the commotion local people, including a garda on his bicycle, began to assemble in Charlotte Street, as the raiders with revolvers drawn backed out of the bank warning “keep away or be shot”. In a strange turn of events  Waldron and Hugh Murphy from Sloan’s Drapery followed the fleeing get-away car, a green Ford Cortina , down the Milltown Road, though they lost track of the raiders near Killmeague ,about seven miles from Newbridge. Escaping in the direction of the Wicklow Mountains, the Saor Eire members avoided a massive Garda cordon that was thrown around an area for about 50 square miles.

Frank Keane, the national organiser of Saor Eire (and a former OC of the Dublin Brigade of the IRA), and Simon O’Donnell were arrested and charged after gardai searched their van which contained combat jackets, cash and a map describing how to get to Charlotte Street and the means of access to the bank. The map also showed the Milltown-Killmeague Roads arrowed as an escape route and advising against taking wrong turns at junctions. But the evidence was found lacking and Keane and O’Donnell were released under nolle prosequi, (we shall no longer prosecute).

Forty-eight years later the Hibernian Bank in Charlotte Street, is a music shop – MusiCo.

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Posted on April 29, 2016, in Economy and workers' resistance, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Repression and resistance in 1970s and 1980s, Republicanism 1960s, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, Saor Eire, twenty-six counties. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Saor Eire’s 1968 raid on the Hibernian Bank in Newbridge, Co. Kildare.

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