by ehistoryadmin on June 1, 2016

Saor Eire raid on the Hibernian Bank, Droichead Nua (Newbridge) 1968

By Mick Healy

Saor Eire a Left-wing Republican group ‘commenced the expropriation’ from Irish banks with a raid on the Royal Bank in Drumcondra, on 27th, February 1967. This was followed by a Munster and Leinster Bank robbery in Tallaght on 11th April 1968. This was to happen yet again at 10.15 a.m. Tuesday, 20th June 1968, as three armed raiders wearing false beards, including Sean (Ructions) Doyle a veteran from Operation Harvest (1950s IRA Border Campaign), entered the Hibernian Bank, in Charlotte Street, Newbridge. Shouting “this is a hold-up” they held the manager Michael Waldron and the bank employees at gun point while searching unsuccessfully for the 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 emptied £3,474 of bank-cash into a large bag.

What is more Cathal Henry who worked nearby at Sloan’s Drapery shop, 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 now terrified 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 Bank Manager 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 it is believed 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.

In addition Frank Keane the National Organiser of Saor Eire (and former OC for the Dublin Brigade of the IRA) and Simon O’Donnell were arrested and charged after Garda searched their van that 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. As evidence was found lacking Keane and O’Donnell were released under nolle prosequI, (we shall no longer prosecute), although there was nothing keeping the prosecutor from re-filing the same charges at a later date.

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 Michael Price, using the name of the 1930’s Socialist Republican leader and claiming that the money would be used to finance a movement which would strive for a Workers’ Republic.

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


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