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6 January 2005 Edition

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Out of the ashes arose the Provisionals

BY SHANE Mac THOMÁIS

ng conducted IRA training camps in the Dublin Mountains. In 1953, Goulding, along with Seán Mac Stiofáin and Maurice Canning, took part in an arms raid on a British Army Base in Essex. All three were arrested and sentenced to eight years. It is believed that while in prison, Goulding was converted to Marxism by the Russian Spy Klaus Fochs. Goulding was released in 1958. Within a year he became Quartermaster General of the IRA and in 1962 became Chief of Staff.

In this position he began to win the IRA away from the belief in armed struggle to achieve British withdrawal and an Irish Republic and over to his Marxist three-stage theory of how to win national liberation, a formula familiar in the official Communist Movement since the days of Lenin's "For peace, for bread, for land" speech. The first stage was to unite the Catholic and Protestant working class. The second stage of National Independence was to be postponed until the first stage was obtained and the third stage of a Socialist state lay in an indefinite future. Unsurprisingly, many republicans living in the Six Counties in the 1960s rejected this theory and saw the IRA as the only defence against their continued oppression by unionist and crown forces.

In the typical Stalinist tradition, Goulding began to purge the Republican Movement of any internal opposition. Throughout the '60s, many of the old guard were expelled from the ranks of the IRA. Jimmy Steele, the then OC of Belfast, was stood down after giving a funeral oration in Belfast in which he criticised the running down of the IRA. Many, like Joe Cahill, were given the cold shoulder and left in disgust at the treatment of their comrades and the winding down of the IRA. Goulding even began selling the IRA's arms to Welsh separatists and at IRA training camps weapon training was replaced by political discussion.

While most republicans had no difficulty with the political campaiush through two controversial resolutions. The first motion called for the IRA to enter a coalition of the left to be called the National Liberation Front and the second motion was to end abstentionism. Goulding made sure the convention would go his way. It was held late at night, in a small town outside Dublin. Many of the more traditionalist Volunteers were not informed of it. Many were promised lifts that then did not materialise and some were stopped from entering the hall. The convention, packed with Goulding supporters, voted 39 in favour and 12 against the two motions.

After the meeting, the traditionalists, under Seán Mac Stiofáin, met and decided to form the Provisional Army Council. They believed that the IRA GHQ's obsession with parliamentary politics had undermined its role as a fighting force. Mac Stiofáin began travelling the country enlisting support; many long inactive and long suspicious of GHQ returned to the fold, especially fwas made president.

The Provisional IRA went on to reorganise itself and become one of the most effective revolutionary fighting forces of the 20th Century. The Official IRA, after a few military operations, called a ceasefire in 1972 It is now considered defunct.

Sinn Féin went on to gain the support of the nationalist communities of the Six Counties. In 1986, from a position of military strength and political unity at the annual Ard Fheis, a motion to end abstentionism from Stormont and Leinster House was passed by a two-thirds majority. About 30 people left the hall and formed Republican Sinn Féin. Official Sinn Féin went on to become the Workers' Party, which later split and became Democratic Left. Its remnants can be seen in the leadership of the current Labour Party.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

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