Key republican player linked to US 'supernotes'
Profile:Despite being one of the dominant figures in republican and far-left politics for more than half a century, Seán Garland has mostly stayed out of the public eye.
Born in inner-city Dublin on March 7th, 1934, his revolutionary career started in 1953 when he joined the Irish Republican Army.
Those were the days of simple, no-frills republicanism when the object was to get the “Brits” out of the North by military means and the political and social make-up of a united Ireland was largely for another day.
The following year, the young activist briefly joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers to gather intelligence on Gough Barracks in Armagh.
This led to a successful IRA raid with a haul that included 250 rifles, 37 Sten guns and seven Bren guns.
The IRA Border campaign was launched in December 1956 and on New Year’s Day 1957 Garland led the ill-fated attack on the barracks of the Royal Ulster Constabulary at Brookeborough, Co Fermanagh.
The deaths of Seán South (28) and Fergal O’Hanlon (20) in that raid later became the subjects of popular republican ballads. Garland himself was seriously wounded but recovered and was then jailed in Mountjoy.
Released in 1959 he went to Belfast to work undercover for the IRA but was arrested and sentenced to four years in Crumlin Road jail.
Along with Cathal Goulding and Tomás Mac Giolla, the lesson Garland drew from the doomed 1950s campaign was that the republican movement needed to build up popular support and involvement.
They began to move towards the Marxist end of the political spectrum as well as seeking to end the policy of abstentionism, whereby Sinn Féin candidates ran for election but refused to take their seats if they won.
At the outbreak of the Troubles, the IRA and Sinn Féin split between Official and Provisional wings, with Garland a leading figure on the Official or “Sticky” side.
The Officials called a ceasefire in May 1972 (except for “self-defence”) and its weapons were mainly used thereafter in feuds with the Provisionals and the breakaway Irish National Liberation Army (INLA); they were also accused of using them for a range of illegal fund-raising activities.
Garland was badly wounded in an INLA assassination attempt in March 1975 in Ballymun.
Elected general secretary of Official Sinn Féin, Garland successfully proposed in 1977 that the organisation be renamed Sinn Féin the Workers’ Party. Five years later, the Sinn Féin prefix was dropped.
The WP was running out of funds in the mid-1980s. A letter – about which there has been much dispute and controversy over its authority – to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union explained that “the bulk of the shortfall has been met by ‘special activities’ of which it is not possible to detail here because of reasons we are sure you will understand”.