Liam Sutcliffe: a revolutionary life

Liam with other Saor Eire activists

by Mick Healy

Socialist-republican and former Saor Éire activist Liam Sutcliffe passed away suddenly at his home in Greenhills, Dublin on Friday 3rd November, 2017.  His wife Bernadette, to whom he was married for over 60 years, died in February 2016.

Liam came from an historic Dublin working class area, The Liberties, and was recruited into the Irish Republican Army along with Tomás Mac Giolla in 1954. Within a few months he was operating as an IRA agent in Gough barracks in Armagh, passing important information to the Republican Movement.

This was part of the preparations for a new IRA campaign.

However Liam left the IRA, along with a large number of Dublin Volunteers, including Liam Daltun and Gery Lawless, as they were dissatisfied with the pace of developments and felt the IRA leadership were dragging their heels in getting the campaign underway.  They joined the breakaway group led by Joe Christle, a group whose existence may have encouraged the IRA central leadership to get a move on, although planning for a new IRA campaign was already underway.

Liam and the others took part in the 1956-62 ‘Border Campaign’, officially referred to by the IRA leadership as “Operation Harvest”. The Christle group joined forces with Kevin Neville and Frank Morris in Liam Kelly’s left-wing organisation Saor Uladh in Co. Tyrone in early 1956.

Although the campaign made progress militarily and four Sinn Fein candidates were also elected to the southern parliament, Operation Harvest ran out of steam.  It was called off in 1962, beginning a process of re-evaluation by republican military and political activists.

In 1966, on the 50th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, Liam was involved in an operation to blow up Nelson’s Pillar in O’Connell Street, the central boulevard in Dublin. Nelson’s Pillar had been there since 1809, the tallest monument in Dublin and what one socialist-republican has called “a constant reminder of British colonial power and the obsequious Irish bourgeoisie.”

In 1970, he joined Saor Éire and was involved in the arming and training of the Nationalist Defence Committees in Belfast and Derry.  He became a leading volunteer in the group, active in many of its engagements.  He worked closely with left-wing activists like Frank Keane, Charlie O’Neill, Simon O’Donnell and Mairin Keegan, who pledged to strive for a Workers Republic.

Liam was also instrumental in organising the funeral in Mount Jerome Cemetery of Saor Éire member Liam Walsh, who was killed in a premature explosion in Dublin on 13,October 1970.

After the failure of Saor Éire, Liam began operating with the Provisional IRA, in addition to working with the Christle group.

In recent years he was on the committee to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the IRA 1956-62 campaign. He was active in the Save Moore Street campaign and the anti-water tax demonstrations.  Earlier this year he attended the commemoration for Trotskyist and Saor Éire member Peter Graham.

The Free State special branch took Liam Sutcliffe’s name again this year, not bad for an 84-year-old socialist-republican.


Posted on November 6, 2017, in 21st century republicanism and socialism, Border Campaign/Operation Harvest, Commemorations, General revolutionary history, Historiography and historical texts, Political education and theory, Public events - Ireland, Republicanism 1960s, Republicanism post-1900, Revolutionary figures, Saor Eire. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Liam Sutcliffe funeral times.

    Reposing at the Fanagan Funeral Home, Aungier Street from 5pm until 7.30pm tomorrow Tuesday, 7th. November, with family in attendance. Requiem Mass at 11.30am on Wednesday, 8th. November, in Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Whitefriar Street (Aungier Street). Funeral thereafter to Mount Jerome Cemetery.

  2. The Irish Republican & Marxist History Project would like to thank Philip Ferguson for his help and encouragement over the years.

  3. Thanks Mick. My pleasure.

  1. Pingback: Death of veteran Irish socialist-republican Liam Sutcliffe | Redline

  2. Pingback: Liam Sutcliffe commemoration | the irish revolution

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