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English aristocrat-turned IRA member Rose Dugdale dies aged 82

Rose Dugdale, the English aristocrat who led a notorious IRA art heist, has died at the age of 82.

The death of the disinherited heiress comes just days before a film about her life is to be released in cinemas.

The rebellious former debutante from Devon turned her back on a life of privilege 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, including a failed bid to drop bombs on to a police station in Northern Ireland using a helicopter hijacked 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 inside Limerick prison.

The film telling the story of the art heist, Baltimore, will be released in cinemas this Friday.

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

She had been living in a care home in Dublin in recent years.

Sinn Fein TD for Dublin South Central, Aengus O Snodaigh, extended his sympathies to her friends and family.

He said: “I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Rose Dugdale this morning, and on my own behalf and that of Sinn Fein I wish to offer heartfelt condolences to her friends, family and party members.

“Rose was a committed republican and was unflinching in her beliefs, and Ireland has today lost a committed republican and activist, and Sinn Fein 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 Fein.

“She was extremely committed to her community, both in her work for Sinn Fein, where she was a hugely popular figure locally and nationally, but also in a wide variety of community groups.

“She was also a great educator of Sinn Fein activists and representatives, many of whom benefited from her vast knowledge and life experiences, and who are all feeling the loss of a dear friend and comrade today.”