Garda Fallon first on the force killed in modern Troubles

 

Garda Richard Fallon was shot dead while chasing bank robbers in a lane off Dublin's north quays on April 3rd, 1970.

A 43-year-old father of five, he died from a bullet in the head fired by a member of a gang which had just held up the Royal Bank of Ireland on Arran Quay. He was the first garda killed during the period of the modern Troubles. The republican splinter group Saor Eire was suspected, but nobody was ever convicted.

Garda Fallon was attached to Mountjoy Garda station, where he reported for work at 9 a.m. on the day of his death. Soon after 10 a.m. he and two other officers were on duty in a patrol car when they were asked to answer an alarm call at the Arran Quay bank. They arrived as three members of the gang, all armed with revolvers, were escaping through the front door.

Garda Fallon and Garda Paul Firth chased the raiders. Shots were fired and Garda Fallon fell. A priest from St Paul's presbytery, beside the bank, heard the shots and ran outside. He anointed the wounded officer, who was taken to Jervis Street hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The then Minister for Justice, Mr Micheal O Morain offered a £5,000 reward for information. The victim was one of four Fallon brothers to become gardai and his father Michael, who had been a member of the "Old" IRA, descibed him as "fearless".

Speaking to The Irish Times after his son's murder, he added: "That's why he was killed. It's a great disgrace he was not armed. He was in the LDF before he joined the guards and he had an excellent shot."

Garda Fallon was the first member of the force killed in the line of duty in almost three decades and his death occurred against the background of rapidly worsening violence in the North, and an upsurge in bank robberies in the Republic. Arran Quay was the 13th armed robbery in three years.

A special branch officer also quoted in The Irish Times said: "The honeymoon is now over. One of our men has been killed, a father of five who never did harm to anybody. We've always been painted as the villains, the ones who are brutal. You go up and ask Dick Fallon's widow today who are the brutal ones."

Both the Provisional and Official IRA denied involvement, and suspicion quickly fell on Saor Eire, a small extremist faction comprising former IRA men and a straightforwardly criminal element. The group carried out bank robberies in Dublin and Kells in late 1969 and achieved added notoriety in February 1970 when members took over the village of Rathdrum, Co Wicklow, cutting telephone wires and holding up traffic while raiding the local Hibernian Bank. Thanks to the crackdown that followed the Arran Quay robbery, however, the group was effectively defunct by the end of 1970.

In the wake of the Fallon murder, the Garda published names and addresses of seven men it wanted to interview. Saor Eire condemned the "fascist" police tactic, but added in a statement:

"We deny that Garda Fallon was killed, as the Government and the anti-socialist press suggest, in the course of protecting the public. He died protecting the property of the ruling class, who are too cowardly and clever to do their own dirty work."