DAN KEATING (1902 – 2007)
Eanáir/January 2, 1902 – Deireadh Fómhair/October 2, 2007
Life-long Irish Republican and Patron of Sinn Féin Poblachtach
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o’er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking:
Dream of battled fields no more,
Days of danger, nights of waking.
In our isle’s enchanted hall,
Hands unseen thy couch are strewing,
Fairy strains of music fall,
Every sense in slumber dewing.
Soldier, rest! thy warfare o’er,
Dream of fighting fields no more:
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Morn of toil, nor night of waking
“Today Ireland has lost one of her bravest and finest sons, humble are we to follow in your steps.” – An Irish Republican.
Dan Keating was born and raised in the townland of Ballygamboon, Castlemaine, County Kerry. He received his education in local schools, including the Christian Brothers School in Tralee. In 1917, Dan went to work in Tralee at Jerry McSweeney’s Grocery, Bar and Bakery where he did his apprenticeship. Jerry McSweeney’s uncle, Richard Laide, was shot in the attack on Gortalea barracks which was the first barracks to be attacked in Ireland. During this time he became a skillful Gaelic football player in his native Kerry.
Dan joined Na Fianna Éireann in Tralee in 1918 and about two years later he joined the Irish Republican Army. Others to join at that time were Gerry Moyles, Donnchadh Donoghue, Tommy Vale, John Riordan (Kerry All-Ireland footballer), Jerry O’Connor (better known as “Uncy”), Matt Moroney and Paddy and Billy Griffin.
In the meantime Dan met a soldier who used to frequent the bar where he worked and during conversations procured a rifle from him. This was then handed over to Johnny O’Connor of the Farmers’ Bridge unit. Dan was later to join this unit which included men of the calibre of Johnny Duggan, Johnny O’Connor, Timmy Galvin, Moss Galvin, Jack Corkery, Jim Ryle, Mick Hogan and Jamesy Whiston. This unit was very active from 1920 to 1924 and many of its members took part in the Headford ambush which claimed the lives of approximately 20 British soldiers. Volunteers Danny Allman and Jimmy Baily also lost their lives at Headford.
Dan took part in the ambush at Castlemaine in which eight RIC and Black-and-Tans were killed. Gerry Moyles was severely injured in this encounter. The last ambush in Kerry took place in Castleisland on the night before the Truce and Dan also participated in this. Four RIC members were killed in this action and Volunteers Jack Shanahan, Jack Prenderville, John McMahon and John Flynn also lost their lives.
In 1922 Dan was transferred to a unit in Tralee which was commanded by Tommy Barton of Ballyroe when they occupied Ballymullen barracks for a period of three months. Dan took part in the attack on Listowel barracks, now occupied by the Free Staters, in which one Free Stater was shot dead.
In Limerick, Dan, along with comrades from Kerry, fought the Free State troops over a period of ten days. Republican Volunteers Patrick Foran, Charlie O’Hanlon and Tom McLoughlin lost their lives there, Dan was then sent to Tipperary to instruct Gerry Moyles to return to Kilmallock but on the way they were surrounded by Free Staters. After a battle at Two Mile Bridge Dan and his comrades were taken prisoner and held in Thurles barracks for two days before being conveyed to Portlaoise jail where he was held for six months. This was to be the first of many times Dan was interned by the Free State.
During this period in Portlaoise the jail was burned and Volunteer Paddy Hickey from Dublin was shot dead. Dan was then transferred to the Curragh Internment Camp and was held there until March 1923. a Free State soldier named Bergin from Nenagh, who became friendly with the Republican prisoners and acted as a courier to Republicans on the outside, was executed by the Staters.
Dan was charged with possession of a shotgun in 1930 and was issued a summons but did not attend court and was fined £1. In the true Republican tradition he refused to pay and was sent to Limerick and held for one week. During a court case in Tralee involving Johnny O’Connor and Mick Kennedy, in which they refused to recognise the court, their supporters in the courthouse cheered loudly and when things died down the judge ordered Dan Keating to be brought up before him and gave him three months for contempt. Dan was jailed in Cork with Johnny O’Connor but after a hunger strike by Johnny both were released after three weeks.
The next time Dan was interned was after O’Duffy’s visit to Tralee; he was sentenced to six months in Arbour Hill. Dan was later captured in Carrigans in Clonmel by a policeman who had previously arrested him in Tralee and was taken first to Thurles and from there to the Curragh where he was held for three years and six months. In this period the camp was burned and Barney Casey from Longford was shot dead.
Dan was also on active service in England during the early 1940s.
Dan returned to work in Dublin and operated as a barman in the Eagle House, James Street, the Cornet and the Kilmardenny public houses. Dan’s other great interest was Gaelic games, and indeed between football and hurling he has attended more than 140 All-Ireland senior finals including replays, which must be a record in itself. When Dan retired he returned to Kerry in 1978 and resided at Ballygamboon, Castlemaine.
In 2004 Dan Keating replaced George Harrison of Mayo and New York as the fourth Patron of Sinn Féin Poblachtach since 1986, following in the footsteps of such illustrious Republicans as Comdt-General Tom Maguire and Michael Flannery of Tipperary and New York. During his long, healthy and adventurous lifetime Dan has seen many splits and deviations from Republican principles, but he remained loyal and true to the end.
Dan Keating died in Tralee on October 2, 2007, after a short illness.
I measc Laochra na nGael go raibh sé.
Taken from RSF Corcaigh.