At the time of Dan Keating’s death he was Ireland’s oldest man and the last surviving veteran of the Irish War of Independence.
Keating was born and raised in Castlemaine, Co Kerry. He received his education in local schools, including the Christian Brothers School in Tralee, where he did his apprenticeship. During this time he became a skillful Gaelic football player in his native Kerry.
Keating joined Fianna Éireann in 1918. In 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, he joined the Boherbee B Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Kerry Brigade, IRA. On 21 April 1921, RIC Constable Denis O’Loughlin was shot dead in Knightly’s public house in Tralee. Keating, Jimmy O’Connor and Percy Hanafin were suspected of the killing, and were forced to go on the run. On 1 June, Keating was involved in an ambush between Castlemaine and Milltown which claimed the lives of five RIC men. On 10 July, a day before the truce between the IRA and British forces, Keating’s unit was involved in a gun battle with the British Army near Castleisland. This confrontation resulted in the deaths of four British soldiers and five IRA volunteers.
Keating opposed the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and fought on the Republican side in the Irish Civil War. He was involved in operations in Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary, before his column was arrested by Free State Forces. Keating spent seven months in Portlaoise Prison and the Curragh Prison before being released in March 1923.
Keating remained an IRA member for a long time after the Civil War. He was arrested several times during the 1930s on various charges. Keating was active in London during the 1939/1940 IRA bombing campaign.
In 1933, he was involved in an attempt to assassinate the leader of the Irish Blueshirts, Eoin O’Duffy, during a visit to Co Kerry. The attack was to happen at Ballyseedy, where Free State forces had carried out the Ballyseedy Massacre during the Irish Civil War. However, the plot failed when the person travelling with O’Duffy refused to divulge what car the latter would be travelling in.
Keating subsequently returned to Dublin and worked as a barman in several public houses. He retired and returned to his native Kerry in 1978, living out the rest of his life with relatives in Knockbrack. Until his death he refused to accept a state pension because he considered the 26-county Republic of Ireland an illegitimate state which usurped the 1916 Irish Republic.
“All the talk you hear these days is of peace. But there will never be peace until the people of the 32 counties elect one parliament without British interference.”
In 2002, he refused the state’s standard €2,500 award to centenarians from President Mary McAleese. After former IRA volunteer George Harrison died in November 2004, Keating became patron of Republican Sinn Féin until his own death. By the time of his death he was the oldest man in Ireland. He was buried in Kiltallagh Cemetery, Castlemaine.
Photo: Dan “Bally” Keating, Kerry No. 1 Brigade, Flying Column, IRA, in his garden in Ballygamboon, Co Kerry