Oration delivered by Ruairi O Bradaigh, President Republican Sinn Fein at the funeral of Republican Veteran Dan Keating in County Kerry on Friday October 5.
We stand by Dan Keating’s grave in all humility, for this was an Irishman and a Kerryman who gave more than 90 years of service to the All-Ireland Republic of 1916 and the First (All-Ireland) Dail. But we are fiercely proud of his long lifetime of service.
For more than four score and ten years since he first took the Oath of Allegiance to that Republic, Dan fought in defence of it, stood by it and adhered faithfully to it until his death last October 2 at the great age of 105 years. He was an inspiration to succeeding generations of Republicans, never deviating from the hard road of service and suffering, striving to place All Ireland and its future in the hands of the Irish people.
Uinseann Mac Eoin, in his book ‘The IRA in the Twilight Years 1923-48’, published in 1997, gives us a glimpse of Dan Keating:
“A man who has travelled to almost every All-Ireland final in Croke Park and whose fighting goes back into Tan times.
“Tall and spare, at more than 90 years of age he is not stooped, carrying himself with an easy grace; his face soft, not weather beaten. Yet he has spent much of his life standing, having been a barman, in a string of public houses in Dublin; for a number of years in London, and then back again in Dublin, two cities that are well known to him.”
Dan joined Fianna Eireann at the end of 1916 and went on two years later to enrol in the ranks of the Irish Republican Army, first with Kerry No 1 Brigade, and later with Kerry No 2 under its Brigade O/C, John Joe Rice. His combat duty included the highly successful ambush of British forces in his native Castlemaine in1921. Later he saw service in the Castleisland ambush where casualties were also inflicted on the occupation forces, but four of his Volunteer comrades were also killed in action.
Following the Treaty of Surrender, Dan fought against Free State forces in Limerick and Tipperary before being captured and interned in Portlaoise jail and later in Tintown Camp on the Curragh.
Released in 1924, he was back in harness in the Republican Cause.
He endured several short terms of imprisonment in the 1930s, before going to England to take part in the 1939-40 Sabotage Campaign there. He soldiered alongside Sean McNeela of Mayo, JJ Reynolds of Leitrim and Richard Goss of Dundalk.
Back in Ireland, Dan was interned without trial at the Curragh 1940-44. A Republican leader whom he met at that time and respected greatly was George Plant of Tipperary. The re-organisation of the Republican Movement afterwards was long and difficult. Larry Grogan of Drogheda, Frank Driver of Kildare and Mick McCarthy of Cork were men he looked up to.
When he retired from work and settled in his native Co Kerry in 1978, Dan threw himself into local Republican activity. In 2004, he was elected by the Ard-Fheis of Republican Sinn Fein to be its Patron. This was in succession to Comdt-Gen Tom Maguire of Mayo, Michael Flannery of Tipperary and New York and George Harrison of Mayo and New York.
Dan Keating attended and spoke at Ard-Fheiseanna, gave interviews to newspapers, and on radio. He was at all times very clear as to what was required: Ireland was one country, one nation and one people. The English government had no right to be in any part of Ireland; they must go and then the Irish people, acting as a unit, would decide their own future. He accepted that this would be best resolved through a four-province federation, as proposed by Republican Sinn Fein, under one over-arching national parliament.
When he was chosen as Munster Honoree at the annual dinner of CABHAIR (the Prisoners Dependants Fund organisers) some years ago the citation included the following:
Dan’s other great interest is Gaelic games, and indeed between football and hurling he has attended over 138 All-Ireland senior finals, including replays, which must be a record in itself. He now resides at Ballygamboon, Castlemaine.
During his long, healthy and adventurous lifetime, Dan has seen many splits and deviations from Republican principles, but he had remained loyal and true, and there is no more fitting recipient of this honour than this noble son of Kerry.
Dan Keating regarded the so-called peace process as a surrender process and would not accept any British government presence in Ireland, regardless of how it was presented to the Irish people.
Long may his ideals live in the hearts of the Kerry people he loved and the Irish people to whom he gave a lifetime of service.
Ar Dheis De go raibh a anam dilis.