Rose Dugdale never regretted swapping privileged life for the IRA, funeral told

Rose Dugdale, the English aristocrat who led a notorious IRA art heist, had no regrets about turning her back on a life of privilege, her funeral has heard.

Mourners were told that the disinherited heiress, who died earlier this month at the age of 82, always remained an “enigma” to the British establishment, with her legacy forever interwoven in the story of the republican movement in Ireland.

At the close of her cremation service in Dublin, the curtains were drawn across her coffini to the soundtrack of the Pet Shop Boys hit It’s A Sin.

Earlier the coffin had been draped in the Irish national flag as it was carried towards the Crematorium Chapel of Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, led by a lone piper.

Rose Dugdale funeral
Ruairi Gallagher (front right), the son of veteran republican Rose Dugdale, helps carry her coffin to the Crematorium Chapel in Glasnevin (Brian Lawless/PA).

The rebellious former debutante from Devon rejected the trappings of her early life to join the IRA in the 1970s and went on to mastermind a multimillion-pound fine art heist.

The Oxford graduate was the ringleader of the 1974 IRA raid on the Russborough House estate in Co Wicklow, in which 19 valuable paintings were stolen.

She was involved in other IRA operations during the Troubles, including a failed bid to drop bombs on to a police station in Strabane in Co Tyrone, Northern Ireland, using a helicopter hijacked across the border in Co Donegal.

The republican bombmaker was convicted and sentenced to nine years in prison for her IRA activities. She was pregnant at the time and gave birth to a son, Ruairi, inside Limerick prison.

Her son joined her partner and republican colleague Jim Monaghan at the funeral service on Wednesday.

Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and several party colleagues were among those in attendance.

Rose Dugdale funeral
The coffin of Rose Dugdale is carried to the Crematorium Chapel (Brian Lawless/PA).

Addressing the service from his wheelchair, Mr Monaghan described his partner as a “force of nature” and an “all rounder in revolution, politics and education”.

“Rose was a woman of many talents, she was well known as an IRA volunteer but she also taught economics and politics and sometimes a bit of philosophy,” he said.

Mr Monaghan thanked the staff at the care home for everything they had done in caring for his partner.

Former Sinn Fein Assembly member and MEP Martina Anderson presided over the service on Wednesday afternoon.

She said her friend had a “pivotal role” in the republican movement.

“I stand here with a sore yet proud heart reminded of the remarkable journey I and so many others shared together with Rose in the depths of the Irish republican struggle,” she said.

“Rose’s path from a privileged upbringing to the heart of the republican struggle was marked by her insatiable and unwavering commitment to economic equality, social justice and human rights.”

Rose Dugdale funeral
Former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was among the mourners (Brian Lawless/PA).

Sinn Fein TD for Dublin South Central Aengus O Snodaigh delivered the eulogy.

“Rose was an enigma to the establishment, they couldn’t and can’t still grasp that somebody could turn their back on privilege in order to help the masses,” he said.

“If they had spent any time with Rose they would have come away with a clear understanding of how her passion, her drive to help the oppressed, her determination to rebalance the world order was Rose literally putting her money where her mouth was.

“Having enjoyed an early life of privilege in England, living with all the trappings of wealth, she went on to reject that life that was being shaped for her and embraced wholeheartedly, with no regrets, a life in struggle against British imperialism and world imperialism.

“She was energetic, with a passion for justice, tackling poverty, and seeking the redistribution of wealth and rebalancing of power.”

A tribute from Ms Dugdale’s son Ruairi was read by her long-time friend and republican colleague Marion Coyle at the close of the service.

“You will always live on in our hearts and never be forgotten – I love you ma,” he stated.

The film telling the story of the art heist, Baltimore, was released in cinemas this month.

Actress Imogen Poots plays Rose Dugdale in the thriller directed by Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy.

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