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Liam Daltun 1936-72

“A man of great charm and knowledge”

Mick Healy of the Irish Republican & Marxist History Project provides his account of a pioneer of modern Irish Trotskyism.

19 March 2014

 “Writing about the great events in Ireland (1913 Lockout-1916 Rising) Lenin described the Citizens Army as ‘the first Red Army in the World’ and remarked that the Irish workers had set an example for workers everywhere.  Within a little more than a year of the events of the 1916 Rising a ‘similar body of armed men’ in Russia shook the World. Russian workers carrying rifles and wearing scarlet armbands appeared on the streets of Petersburg and Moscow. Under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky the insurrectionary seizure of power was organised which led to the founding of the first Workers State”.                                                
Liam Daltun, The Irish Militant 2nd edition May 1966.

Liam Daltun was born in February 1936 in Co, Westmeath and moved with his family to  Ballymun, Dublin in the 1950s. Dalton’s first employment for about two years was in Gael Linn, an organisation founded to foster the Irish language. He spoke Irish with a perfection rarely found outside of the Gaaeltacht. Dalton was a particularly gifted linguist and also spoke French, Spanish, Italian and Russian.

His association with radicalism went back to his youth when at 18 years of age in 1954 he joined the IRA. He later left the IRA and operated with the breakaway Joe Christle group during the 1950s Republican Border campaign. The Christle Group along with Dalton blew up nine customs posts along the border with the north of Ireland in 1956. Around this time he was arrested in Dublin.  His trial was held the next day. He defended himself, recognised the court and was acquitted, at a time when Irish Republicans refused to recognise the authority of the courts.

With the failure of the Border campaign in 1962 Dalton went to London and converted to Marxism initially joining the Irish Worker’s Union. He later became involved with the Irish Communist Group. However in 1966 he joined the Trotskyist Irish Workers Group (IWG) with Gerry Lawless and Paddy Healy and began writing for the IWG paper ‘The Irish Militant’. Subsequently Dalton joined the International Marxist Group (IMG), the British section of the Fourth International, along with Tariq Ali and Peter Graham who together published the IMG underground newspaper, ‘Red Mole’.

As the Republican movement became increasingly left wing during the 1960s Daltun was offered the post of SF Education Officer by Republican leader Cathal Goulding, he rejected the offer out of hand. Dalton then became involved in the organisation of Saor Eire (SE) alongside the IWG activists Frank Keane, Maìrin Keegan and Sean Morrissey. Together with Graham, Dalton was instrumental in publishing the Saor Eire manifesto in May 1971. He  also was instrumental in the Frank Keane Defence Committee, attending the trial in Dublin of Keane. Keane was subsequently acquitted for his alleged involvement in the Arran Quay bank raid in Dublin in which a member of the Gardai was shot dead.

On 25th October 1971 Graham who established the Irish section of the Fourth International was shot dead in Dublin at the age of 26; his murder remains unsolved, less than three months later Marxist and Saor Eire activist Maìrin Keegan passed away from cancer. These are some of the events believed to have contributed to Daltun’s untimely death. 

In a tragic turn of events 36 year old Daltun took his own life on Bloody Sunday 30th January 1972. His body was found below the bridge in Newington Green Road London. Liam Sutcliffe and Joe Keegan visited the late Daltun’s home in London to discuss arrangements for a Saor Eire style funeral in Ireland. His partner Nan Daltun politely refused the request as she wanted him buried close to his family in London.

 The funeral took place on a cold winter’s day, with hundreds of Socialists followed behind the hearse carrying the Tricolour and Starry Plough draped coffin to New Southgate Cemetery, London. The funeral was one of the largest Trotskyite funerals in the city for some time and was attended by many leading figures of the left including Frank Keane.

 “We must make the Worker’s Republic our slogan, the Starry Plough our banner and the Citizen army our model”. Liam Daltun The Irish Militant May 1966.


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