Rose Dugdale, English heiress who joined Provisional IRA, dies aged 83

Sinn Féin politicians pay tribute to ‘true revolutionary’ who was involved in Russborough House art heist

Rose Dugdale, an English heiress who joined the Provisional IRA and was involved in the 1974 Russborough House art raid, has died. She was 83.

Sinn Féin politicians have paid tribute to Ms Dugdale, describing her as “a true revolutionary” and a “comrade and friend”.

Her life was the subject of an RTÉ documentary last year, The Heiress and the Heist, as well as a recent biography by Seán O’Driscoll entitled Heiress, Rebel, Vigilante, Bomber: The Extraordinary Life of Rose Dugdale.

Born to a wealthy family, Ms Dugdale later went on to study economics at Oxford.


She became involved in IRA activities during the Troubles.

In 1973, Eddie Gallagher – who she later married – recruited her to assist him in seizing a helicopter, from which he attempted to bomb a barracks in Strabane.

The following year she was a member of the gang that stole 19 paintings – then valued at IR£8 million – from Russborough, then the home of former Conservative MP Sir Alfred Beit and his wife.

The couple were bound and gagged during the raid and the paintings were later found in Co Cork.

Ms Dugdale and others involved in the raid were afterwards jailed for the robbery.

She gave birth to a son during her sentence.

Gallagher, the boy’s father, remained at large and subsequently kidnapped Dutch businessman Tiede Herrema, demanding in vain Ms Dugdale’s release in exchange for Herrema’s.

Ms Dugdale became an active member of Sinn Féin and lived in Dublin.

Daithí Doolan, Sinn Féin councillor on Dublin City Council and candidate for the European elections, described her in a post on X (formerly Twitter) as “a true revolutionary who inspired others”, adding she had “dedicated her life to Irish freedom”.

He described her as an “amazing woman” and offered his deepest sympathies to Ms Dugdale’s family.

Asked about her IRA membership, Mr Doolan said she was a “freedom fighter” but also said she “was an avid supporter of the peace process”.

Dublin South Central Sinn Féin TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh said he was “deeply saddened” to learn of Ms Dugdale’s death.

He said: “Rose was a committed republican and was unflinching in her beliefs, and Ireland has today lost a committed republican and activist, and Sinn Féin a valued comrade.”

He added: “Rose for many decades lived in Dublin, in the south inner-city, Drimnagh and in recent years in a nursing home in Chapelizod, and was an active member of Sinn Féin.

“She was extremely committed to her community”.

Dublin Mid-West TD Mark Ward posted on X that he was “very sad” to hear of Ms Dugdale’s death.

He said he still had a postcard she sent him after he was first elected that encouraged him to “reach my full potential”.

Former MEP Martina Anderson posted: “RIP Rose Dugdale. Rose taught me a lot and I will never forget her. Proud to call Rose a comrade and friend.”

A new film called Baltimore, which stars Imogen Poots as Ms Dugdale and portrays the 1974 raid on Russborough House, is released in cinemas this Friday.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times