Current Affairs Politics

The Labour Party And The Official IRA – They Haven’t Gone Away, You Know

Éamon Gilmore and Proinsias de Rossa flank their then Workers Party boss, Tomas Mac Giolla, a former leader of the Official IRA, 1987
Éamon Gilmore and Proinsias de Rossa flank their then Workers Party boss, Tomás Mac Giolla, a former leader of the Official IRA, 1987. Both became senior members of the Irish Labour Party in the 1990s-2000s

The hijacking of the leadership of the Irish Labour Party by Official Sinn Féin / Official IRA Sinn Féin the Workers Party / Official IRA the Workers Party / Official IRA / Group B Democratic Left in the 1990s is one of the great putsches of Irish political history. The sequence of events are clear enough. By the mid-to-late 1960s the higher echelons of Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army had come under the influence of would-be communist revolutionaries more concerned with liberating the global working classes than the Irish communities in the UK-ruled north-east of Ireland. The fact that the working classes of the world weren’t all that sanguine about the glories of communist liberation and that Irish citizens living in the north of the country were rather more concerned about being murdered in their beds by rampaging mobs from the British unionist minority on the island didn’t overly concern the green-tinged Reds. The proletariat would follow where the revolutionary leadership led them (for the leadership knew better).

Towards the end of 1969 and into 1970 the militant Republican movement was split into two ideological camps with Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army divided into Official (‘communist’) and Provisional (‘nationalist’) wings. Official Sinn Féin (OSF) gradually discarded most pretences of being an Irish republican or nationalist party and became just another micro-grouping of super-serious Marxist-Leninist beardies, albeit with a rather handy military wing in the form of the Official IRA (OIRA). By the late-1970s the OIRA was on ceasefire while OSF was ploughing a new course in holier-than-thou left-wing politics, decrying all forms of (Irish) nationalism while making some rather odd friends across the barricades amongst the British separatist community – much to the approval of their fellow communists in Britain who kindly gave their imprimatur to the whole exercise at which their Irish puppies happily wagged their tails (and some still do). OSF sympathisers also managed to infiltrate several key areas of influence amongst Ireland’s media elite, particularly the News and Current Affairs Department of RTÉ, where they exercised a tight control, deliberately setting news agendas and self-censoring reports from ‘Northern Ireland’.

Gardaí confront protesting students led by Éamon Gilmore, a member of the UCG Republican Party, a grouping linked to Official Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Official IRA, 1974
Gardaí confront protesting students led by Éamon Gilmore, a member of the UCG Republican Party, a grouping linked to Official Sinn Féin, the political wing of the Official IRA, 1974

By the 1980s OSF had gone through several transformations to become the Workers Party, a straightforward hard-left organisation, with some dismal authoritarian tendencies. Wedded to its ideology and intolerant of dissent elements of the party, particularly in the north, embraced street thuggery and intimidation, working behind the scenes to promote the movement. The Official IRA was now known to a select few as Group B and became the disciplinary force within, the breakers of legs and shooters of kneecaps. They also provided much of the party’s funding through an organised web of criminality: robberies, kidnapping, drug-dealing, extortion, prostitution, smuggling and many other ‘special activities’. However the old enmities derived from the original split with the Provisionals never went away and many in the WP / OIRA developed what can be best described as ‘mutually beneficial relationships‘ with the UK authorities, both military and political.

In time the closeness of these associations were such that several members of the Workers Party choose to spy for the British Forces in the north (with the approval and connivance of some of the organisation’s leadership), allowing the WP to target political rivals as well as bringing in yet more ‘special revenues’; this time from British government coffers. The fact that the ‘collaboration’ resulted in the imprisonment or deaths of Irish citizens seemed to bother the apparatchiks not one whit in their single-minded determination to do down their rivals and bring about about a class revolution in Ireland. Yet this dual game of playing at both politics and militarism, while claiming to be unarmed peaceniks and decriers of all forms of violence, could not continue indefinitely and in the early 1990s the Workers Party experienced its most serious split with the formation of Democratic Left (DL).

This short-lived, if initially successful political movement eventually merged with Ireland’s Labour Party in 1999 and here is where the real story begins. In a few short years the former DL members who joined Labour had risen to the top of the organisation, eventually seizing control of its leadership in a political takeover so ruthless and audacious that it left many traditional Labour activists stunned. The new leading lights of the party were now the likes of Proinsias de Rossa (former IRA, Sinn Féin, Workers Party, Democratic Left), Pat Rabbitte (Sinn Féin, Workers Party, Democratic Left, Labour Party leader), Éamon Gilmore (Sinn Féin, Workers Party, Democratic Left, Labour Party leader) and Kathleen Lynch (Workers Party, Democratic Left).

It is to Lynch that we now turn, in this report from the Mail Online:

‘The brother-in-law of Ireland’s Minister of State Kathleen Lynch is a fugitive from justice who is wanted for questioning by police over an elaborate counterfeiting operation.

Just weeks ago, Mrs Lynch was embroiled in controversy for hiring her husband, Bernard, who spent a year in prison for murdering a man in a machine-gun attack before being acquitted on appeal.

Bernard’s brother Brian, 58, was suspected of being the brains behind a massive counterfeiting scam uncovered by gardaí in a raid at Repsol Ltd, which was on the ground floor of the Workers’ Party Dublin headquarters in 1983.

The Workers Party, the political wing of the Official IRA, became Democratic Left in 1992 and merged into the Labour Party in 1999.

Brian Lynch was one of a number of men wanted for questioning by gardaí in relation to the operation.

Another being sought was Seán Garland, who is currently fighting extradition for his alleged involvement in an international forgery conspiracy involving the KGB and North Korea in a plot to undermine the U.S. dollar.

The U.S. has been seeking Mr Garland’s extradition since May 2005 when he was indicted for alleged trading in forged $100 bills as part of the so-called ‘superdollar’ conspiracy that began in the Soviet Union in the 1980s and expanded to involve North Korea – a place Mr Garland visited several times during the period in his capacity as a Workers’ Party officer and as a director of GKG Communications, an international business consultancy.

The U.S. alleges that Mr Garland and six co-conspirators, a Russian, a South African and four Englishmen, used couriers to transport supernotes around the world.

The indictment also refers to Garland as ‘the man in the hat’ and identified specific dates when he had transported forged currency from North Korean embassies.

However, the whole ‘superdollar’ affair has its genesis in a Garda raid on a warehouse on Hanover Quay in November 1983 that uncovered a stack of near-perfect Irish £5 notes worth £1.7m.

This raid led to the gardaí searching Repsol. a printing firm where Brian Lynch was an employee and which was run by Mr Garland.

Mr Lynch had previously worked in his father’s printing business in Cork and was known among the Official IRA as the ‘master printer’.

His sister-in-law, the well respected politician Kathleen Lynch, is the Minister of State with responsibility for disability, equality and mental health. He is also the brother of Ciarán Lynch, the Labour TD for Cork.’

The Workers Party - it's more than meets the eye!
The Workers Party – it’s more than meets the eye!

I have highlighted the case of Seán Garland in previous posts (as well as some of the shady history of the Workers Party in Ireland and the baleful influence it has had upon our political and journalistic establishments) but the controversy around Bernard Lynch and Larry White, a Republican activist murdered by the OIRA in deeply suspicious circumstances in the mid-1970, was largely forgotten, except by his family and friends. That is until Kathleen Lynch appointed her husband Bernard as a ‘special advisor’, a cushy role paid for by the Irish tax-payer (thank God the Labour Party aren’t like Fianna Fáil, hey? No nepotism and cronyism here). As the Irish Times reported:

‘THE FAMILY of a Cork republican murdered more than 35 years ago has called on the Taoiseach to seek the removal of a Minister of State’s personal assistant who was acquitted of the killing in the 1970s.

The family of Larry White are angered that Labour TD Kathleen Lynch, Minister of State at the Departments of Justice and Health, has appointed her husband Bernard as her personal assistant. Mr Lynch, who was then a member of Official Sinn Féin, was acquitted on appeal after being convicted, along with three other men, of the murder of Mr White in the mid-1970s.

The Lynches declined to comment on the matter yesterday. Neither the Taoiseach nor Labour leader Eamon Gilmore were available for comment.

In November 1976, the Court of Criminal Appeal set aside the conviction of Mr Lynch and another man for the murder of Mr White. Two other convictions were upheld. Mr White had been a member of the republican splinter group Saor Éire, which had fallen out with Official Sinn Féin. The 25-year-old was walking from the pub to his home in Cork on June 10th, 1975, when he was killed in a machine-gun attack.

Gardaí arrested and charged four men: Mr Lynch and David O’Donnell (then 21), of Rosewood Estate, Ballincollig, Co Cork and Leeson Street, Belfast; Cornelius Finbar Doyle (25), Nun’s Walk, Co Cork; and Bartholomew Madden (34), Owenacurra Court, Togher, Co Cork. Mr Lynch was at the time a leading member of Cork (Official) Sinn Féin, according to The Lost Revolution, a history of the party by Scott Millar and Brian Hanley published in 2009.

The trial, which lasted 32 days, was one of the longest seen in the Special Criminal Court. The four men were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. There were allegations of Garda brutality and of confessions being given under duress.

In setting aside Mr Lynch’s conviction, chief justice Tom O’Higgins said the Court of Criminal Appeal was satisfied there were grounds for suspecting Mr Lynch was aware of the intention to use a stolen white Cortina car for the purpose of some crime, possibly a serious crime of violence. There was, however, no admissible evidence against him of any activity in the preparation or commission of a crime of violence, or the murder of Larry White.

Proof of knowledge that such a crime was about to be committed, even if it had been well established against him, would, in the absence of proof of some active participation, not support the conviction of murder, according to the chief justice. The conviction was set aside.’

Ah, well that’s okay then, isn’t it?

Except, of course, its not.

As the Sinn Féin TD Dessie Ellis pointed out there are a lot of skeletons in the cupboards of the former members of Official Sinn Féin who now travel under the Labour Party banner:

‘Dessie insists that there are prominent members of Labour today — politicians who had previously been members of Democratic Left, the Workers’ Party and Official Sinn Féin before joining Labour — who were also members of the IRA. ‘There are quite a few hypocrites there. I’m well aware of that. I know some of them from my past. So, I know the positions that they held. Some of them are still there.’

Indeed, for a start one wonders what happened to the arsenal of weapons and explosives retained by the Official IRA that have yet to be ‘decommissioned’ (contrary to public myth the OIRA has not given up or ‘put beyond use’ its stores of weaponry nor does this now seem likely to ever occur). What happened to all those monies raised by the OIRA through criminal activities, and ‘foreign’ donations (East Germany, North Korea, etc.)? Just exactly whose pockets, and whose bank accounts, did all those pounds, dollars and roubles go into? And what about justice? Justice for those people who lost their lives or freedom as the result of actions carried out by OIRA/Group B or WP activists? The next time you see senior members of the Labour Party, and now ministers of the Government of Ireland, pontificating about their revulsion at violence and ‘paramilitarism’, just remember where they came from, what paths they followed, and what hypocrisy they cloak their political histories in.

From Official Sinn Féin to the Workers Party to Democratic Left to the Labour Party, Proinsias de Rossa, Éamon Gilmore, Pat Rabbitte, and Tomás Mac Giolla, the former Chairman of the Army Council of the Official IRA
From Official Sinn Féin to the Workers Party to Democratic Left to the Labour Party: Proinsias de Rossa, Éamon Gilmore, Pat Rabbitte, with Tomás Mac Giolla, the former Chairman of the Army Council of the Official IRA and leader of the Workers Party, 1987. Gilmore and Rabbitte would of course go on to head the Irish Labour Party in the 2000s
The Official IRA demands
The Official IRA demands “itegrated” education in a discussion with the BBC, 1975 (no, this is not a joke!)

1 comment on “The Labour Party And The Official IRA – They Haven’t Gone Away, You Know

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