Former Workers’ Party president Seán Garland waked in Belfast

Participant in 1950s IRA border campaign later supported socialism, which split organisation

Mary Garland (right) looks on as the casket of her husband, former Workers’ Party chief  Seán Garland, is taken from a hearse at the Lower Falls Social Club, Belfast. Photograph: Michael McHugh/PA Wire.

Mary Garland (right) looks on as the casket of her husband, former Workers’ Party chief Seán Garland, is taken from a hearse at the Lower Falls Social Club, Belfast. Photograph: Michael McHugh/PA Wire.

 

Former Workers’ Party president Seán Garland helped to transform republicanism from its narrow nationalist outlook into a much broader socialist movement, mourners at his wake said.

Dozens of people gathered outside a social club off the Falls Road in west Belfast to pay their respects as his remains arrived. Garland (84) died from cancer on Thursday aged 84.

His Belfast-born widow Mary received the sympathy of well-wishers and his daughter Caoimhe was also present as the wicker coffin was wheeled from the hearse without ceremony, flowers or flags.

Garland took part in the IRA’s border campaign in the 1950s but after the cessation of violence was a leading proponent of the socialism which split the organisation and led to the rise of the Provisionals.

He was part of a group of senior republicans, including Cathal Goulding and Tomas Mac Giolla, influenced by internationalist communism during the 1960s.

A Workers’ Party spokesman said Garland “was one of the people in the 1960s who had completely re-thought and transformed the concept of what it was to be republican”.

He had moved “away from a very narrow, nationalist perspective, into a much broader political socialist, Marxist, communist analysis of society”.

Throughout the violence of the 1980s and 1990s, the Workers’ Party promoted dialogue about peaceful co-existence in Northern Ireland. The Official IRA split with the Belfast-led Provisionals in 1970 and Garland was a key figure in the Official IRA ceasefire in 1972. - PA