Seán Garland


Seán Garland : biography

7 March 1934 –

On 1 January 1957 at the beginning of the IRA Border Campaign, he led the unsuccessful attack on Brookeborough Royal Ulster Constabulary barracks in which his associates Seán South and Fergal O’Hanlon, both the subjects of well-known republican ballads, were shot and fatally wounded. Under fire, Garland carried South on his shoulders in an unsuccessful attempt to save his friend’s life. Seriously wounded, he was subsequently hospitalised for a number of weeks and was then jailed in Mountjoy Prison. In November 1957, while in Mountjoy, Garland was an unsuccessful candidate in the Dublin North–Central by-election. Upon his release, he was interned in the Curragh, but was released in 1959. Interview with Garland on Downtown Radio, August 2007

Garland returned to IRA service on his release and was sent to Belfast to liaise with the then largely inactive units in the city. He was arrested while trying to return to Dublin and sentenced in November 1959 to four years in Crumlin Road jail where he subsequently became officer commanding (O.C.) of the IRA prisoners.Hanley and Miller, p. 18

From Sinn Féin to the Workers’ Party of Ireland

In the 1960s, Garland became a Marxist and was one of a generation of IRA leaders who attempted to lead the organisation away from violence and into left-wing political agitation. He worked closely in this with figures like Cathal Goulding and Tomás MacGiolla. During the 1969/70 IRA split, Garland supported the moves to abandon abstentionism and was a key figure in Official Sinn Féin (as national organiser) and Official Irish Republican Army (as Adjutant-General). The Official IRA was openly involved in shootings and bombings of military and civilian targets but declared a ceasefire in May 1972. Despite this, the Official IRA continued to carry out shootings and robberies during the 1970s and was engaged in a number of feuds with the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

On 1 March 1975 in Ballymun, Dublin, Garland survived an INLA assassination attempt while returning home with his wife Mary to his Ballymun home. He was badly wounded in the attack. In 1977, Garland was elected general secretary of Official Sinn Féin. In the same year, he successfully proposed that the party be renamed Sinn Féin the Workers Party. In 1982, he proposed that the prefix Sinn Féin be dropped from the party name to become simply The Workers’ Party.

In 1999 Garland was allegedly observed visiting the North Korean embassy in Moscow. It was subsequently alleged that he visited to collect forged US dollars which, with the help of associates, would be transported to Dublin and Birmingham where the notes would be exchanged for pounds or authentic dollars. The US authorities announced that this scheme, which they said involved several international crime syndicates and transactions worth millions of dollars, had been uncovered in "Operation Mali".

Seán Garland was the Workers’ Party representative at the National Forum on Europe. In 2000, he was elected president of the Workers’ Party.


  • Hanley, Brian, and Millar, Scott (2009). The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers’ Party. Dublin: Penguin Ireland.