Category: Archive

Ex-IRA big Goulding dead at 76

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN –Veteran republican Cathal Goulding, a former chief of staff of the IRA, has died aged 76. He was a leading advocate of switching to extreme left-wing policies in the 1960s and was leader of the organization when the Official/Provisional split occurred in 1970.

A self-employed painter, he was active in the IRA from the late 1930s and led the Official IRA into declaring a cease-fire in 1972.

In recent years, he was a member of the Ard Comhairle of the Workers’ Party.

In a secret Department of Justice report on the IRA of 1966, which was released under the 30-year rule, Goulding was described as a "forceful and dedicated member of the IRA who has great influence with other members of the organization. He spends most of his time in furthering the aims and activities of the IRA."

The Dublin-born Goulding was at that time chief of staff and the army council, which consisted of Thomas MacGiolla, Sean MacStiofain, Ruairi O Bradaigh, Seamus Costello, Sean Garland and a B. Quinn of County Tyrone.

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Goulding led an IRA that was almost exclusively based in the south of the country when the present Troubles began.

Quinn was the only member of the army council from the Six Counties in 1966 and is not among the 36 activists profiled in the Garda report to the Department at the time.

Only two of the 36 activists in the leadership were from north of the border and one of them lived permanently in Rathgar, Dublin.

Gardai estimated the IRA "active strength" at 1,039, with 707 living in the South. All the 12-strong executive and the 11-strong headquarters staff were Southern-based.

The detail in the report indicates the organization was heavily infiltrated by informers and Garda were aware of most of their campaign plans and the content and location of important meetings.

Goulding had been to the forefront in leading the IRA and Sinn Fein in the 1960s to becoming a revolutionary Marxist republican grouping, active in trade unions and on social and economic issues.

Campaigns were fought on fishing rights held by landlords, housing issues and protection of natural resources from being exploited by multi-national oil and mining companies.

When violence erupted in the North in the late 1960s, the IRA was regarded as unprepared and disorganized and unable to protect the Six County nationalist community.

With the emergence of the Provisionals, new younger Northern Ireland-based activists took over and their military campaign to get the British out became dominant.

In the 1970s, bloody feuding took place with the Provisionals and Goulding’s "official" faction and later with the breakaway Irish Republican Socialist Party and its military wing, the INLA.

Goulding came from a background of republican politics. His father fought in 1916 and his grandfather was a Fenian. He joined the Fianna as a teenager in the late 1930s and was first convicted for IRA activities in November 1941 by the then recently established Special criminal Court for "unlawful organization and possession of incriminating documents". He received concurrent sentences of 12 months and 3 months.

He was released in July 1942 but was immediately re-arrested and interned until September 1944.

In April 1946, he received concurrent sentences of 9 months and 3 months for IRA membership and failure to account for his movements.

In October 1953, he was sentenced to eight years for his part in a raid on Felstead Road School in Essex and the theft of 108 rifles and 8 Bren guns.

He was released in April 1959 and returned to Dublin, where Gardai reported he again took up his position in the IRA.

In May 1961, he received two 3 months concurrent sentences.

In March 1962, he received concurrent sentences of 6 and 3 months for attempting to escape from Mountjoy Prison and assault on a prison officer.

In February 1966, he was found in Portlaoise with 3,000 rounds of .303 ammunition, a pistol and 139 rounds of pistol ammunition. He was convicted and was fined £50 or three months in prison. He was released after a week in Mountjoy when the fine was paid.

He is survived by four sons he had in three different relationships.

He separated from his wife, Patty, whom he had married in 1950. He lived with Beatrice Behan, widow of the writer Brendan, for a period and then with Dr. Maire Woods.

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