Northern Ireland news

Seán Garland remembered as 'colossus of socialist politics'

Veteran republican Seán Garland has died at the age of 84. Picture by Julien Behal, Press Association

A FORMER IRA leader who was accused of being the ringleader of a massive forgery racket has died.

Seán Garland (84) died on Thursday at his home in Co Meath after a long illness.

The former president of the Workers' Party of Ireland was last night remembered by his colleagues as a "fearless revolutionary standard bearer" and "colossus of socialist politics".

After joining the IRA in 1953, he later took part in the paramilitary group's border campaign from 1954 to 1957.

He led the attack on an RUC barracks in Brookeborough in Co Fermanagh on January 1 1957, in which IRA members Seán South and Fergal O'Hanlon were killed.

After serving jail sentences at Mountjoy Prison and internment in the Curragh, he was sent to Belfast upon his release in 1959.

Mr Garland became a Marxist during the 1960s and then a leading member of Official Sinn Féin and the Official IRA, following the split with the Provisional IRA in 1970.

He was subsequently a key figure in the Official IRA ceasefire of 1972.

He was arrested in the north in 2005 on foot of a US extradition warrant. He had been accused by the US Secret Service of conspiring to circulate high-grade counterfeit dollar bills throughout the 1990s with officials from North Korea and Russian spies.

Mr Garland fled to Dublin and was arrested in 2009. He fought extradition to the US, and in 2012, the High Court ruled that US authorities had no jurisdiction to extradite him.

Workers' Party President Michael Donnelly paid tribute saying Mr Garland was "a unique and charismatic individual whose contribution to Irish political life cannot be overestimated".

"Seán never took the easy option or the path of least resistance, he always based his decisions, and his actions, on what he adjudged to be in the best interests of working class people and the revolutionary socialist project," Mr Donnelly said.

"Seán's contribution to rethinking and redefining the republicanism of the late 1950s and early 1960s was immense. It changed the course of progressive political thought, emphasised the internationalism of the class politics of the Workers' Party and the common struggle of all workers wherever they lived and decisively rejected the narrow nationalism that others chose to pursue with catastrophic consequences.

"Comrade Seán Garland devoted his life to the struggle to build a socialist future. His legacy and his influence will endure in the class politics which he espoused and in the generations of working people at home and abroad that he has influenced and inspired. We have all lost a fearless revolutionary standard bearer, a colossus of socialist politics, a comrade and friend."

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