Dan Keating

Fighter for Irish independence


Dan Keating, political activist: born Castlemaine, Co Kerry 2 January 1902; married 1929 Mary Fleming (died 1977); died Tralee, Co Kerry 2 October 2007.

Dan Keating was a veteran Irish republican whose life had two particularly notable features – its extreme longevity and the fixity of his hardline anti-British views. Keating was 105 when he died, but his life could easily have ended while he was in his twenties, since as a republican gunman he took part in a series of violent clashes in which both colleagues and foes met their deaths.

The Kerryman, who joined the IRA as a teenager, survived clashes with the Black and Tans as well as regular British forces and armed police. Later he was active in the civil war as republicanism split into two factions; later still, in the 1940s, he was involved in a violent IRA campaign in England. And at no point in his long life did he ever deviate from the ancient republican belief that the Irish problem would only be laid to rest when the British presence had been militarily defeated and forcibly ejected from the island of Ireland.

The eight decades since Ireland's revolutionary period brought no deviation from beliefs which held fast through the Second World War, the emergence of a new and prosperous Ireland, and the current peace process. Ireland changed beyond all recognition but, in common with a small band of ideologues who regarded themselves as political purists, Keating did not. Until his death he was patron of Republican Sinn Fein, which is associated with the Continuity IRA and which still regards itself as at war with Britain.

These organisations regard the Sinn Fein leaders Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness as traitors and scorn efforts to build an inclusive settlement rather than to defeat Britain. Last year, Keating described the peace process as a joke, adding: "All the talk you hear is about peace, but the only time you will ever have peace is when the people of the 32 counties elect one parliament."

Armed with a rifle, in 1921 Keating took part in two large-scale Tan War actions at Castlemaine and Castleisland in which 12 Black and Tans and other British personnel were killed. He said of the Black and Tans: "They were a very arrogant force, absolutely ruthless, they tried to keep down the people." He would not say whether he had killed anyone during his clashes, saying: "I couldn't, wouldn't make any claim like that. It's speculation now, no one knows."

He served various spells in prison. A lifetime teetotaller, he worked as a barman in Dublin. He remained physically as well as politically active, taking long walks, and dancing at his 100th birthday celebrations.

His republican dogmatism extended to refusing to accept the Irish government as legitimate, and he never took a state pension. He also turned down the country's standard award to centenarians, saying he took exception to the Irish president Mary McAleese saying her ambition was to walk through Dublin with the Queen.

David McKittrick

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