Cathal Goulding

Cathal Goulding (Irish: Cathal Ó Goillín; 2 January 1923 – 26 December 1998[1]) was Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army and the Official IRA.

Cathal Goulding
Cathal Goulding
Goulding in 1994
Born2 January 1923
Dublin, Ireland
Died26 December 1998 (aged 75)
Dublin, Ireland
Political partyOfficial Sinn Féin
Workers' Party of Ireland
Spouse(s)Patty Germaine (m. 1950; separated)
Beatrice Behan (née ffrench-Salkeld)
ChildrenCathal Og Goulding
Paudge Behan
Aodhgan Goulding
Banban Goulding
Military career
AllegianceRepublic of Ireland Irish Republic
Service/branchIrish Republican Army
Official Irish Republican Army
Years of service1939–1972
RankChief of Staff
Quartermaster General
Battles/warsThe Troubles
Other workPolitical activist

Early life and career

One of seven children born on East Arran Street, north Dublin to an Irish republican family, as a teenager Goulding joined Fianna Éireann, the youth wing of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). He joined the IRA in 1939.[2] In December of that year, he took part in a raid on Irish Army ammunition stores in Phoenix Park, Dublin; and in November 1941 he was gaoled for a year in Mountjoy Prison for membership of an unlawful organisation and possession of IRA documents. On his release in 1942, he was immediately interned at the Curragh Camp, where he remained until 1944.[3]

In 1945, he was involved in the attempts to re-establish the IRA which had been badly affected by the authorities in both the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. He was among twenty-five to thirty men who met at O'Neill's pub, Pearse Street, to try to re-establish the IRA in Dublin. He organised the first national meeting of IRA activists after the Second World War in Dublin in 1946 and was arrested along with John Joe McGirl and ten others and sentenced to twelve months in prison when the gathering was raided by the Garda Síochána.

Upon his release in 1947, Goulding organised IRA training camps in the Wicklow Mountains and took charge of the IRA's Dublin Brigade in 1951.[4] In 1953, Goulding (along with Seán Mac Stíofáin and Manus Canning) was involved in an arms raid on the Officers' Training Corps armoury at Felsted School, Essex. The three were arrested and sentenced to eight years' imprisonment, but were released in 1959 after serving only six years at Pentonville, Wakefield and Stafford prisons.[5][6] In 1956, an attempt was made by the IRA to free him from Wakefield Prison, but this attempt was aborted when alarms were sounded at the prison.[7] During his time in Wakefield prison, he befriended EOKA members and Klaus Fuchs, a German-born spy who had passed information about the US nuclear programme to the Soviet Union, and became interested in the Russian Revolution.[8]

Chief of staff

Goulding was appointed IRA Quartermaster General in 1959, and in 1962 he succeeded Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as IRA Chief of Staff. In February 1966, together with Seán Garland, he was arrested for possession of a revolver and ammunition. In total, Goulding spent sixteen years of his life in British and Irish jails.

He was instrumental in moving the IRA to the left in the 1960s.[9] He argued against the policy of abstentionism and developed a Marxist analysis of Irish politics. He believed the British state deliberately divided the Irish working class on sectarian grounds, in order to exploit them and keep them from uniting and overthrowing their bourgeois oppressors. This analysis was rejected by those who later went on to form the Provisional IRA after the 1969 IRA split.

Goulding remained Chief of Staff of what became known as the Official IRA until 1972. Although the Official IRA, like the Provisional IRA, carried out an armed campaign, Goulding argued that such action ultimately divided the Irish working class. After public revulsion regarding the shooting death of William Best, a Catholic from Derry who was also a British soldier, and the bombing of the Aldershot barracks, the Official IRA announced a ceasefire in 1972.

Goulding was prominent in the various stages of Official Sinn Féin's development into the Workers' Party of Ireland. He was also involved in the anti-amendment campaign in opposition to the introduction of a constitutional ban on abortion, along with his partner, Dr Moira Woods. In 1992, however, he objected to the political reforms proposed by party leader Proinsias De Rossa, and remained in the Workers' Party after the formation of Democratic Left. He regarded Democratic Left as having compromised socialism in the pursuit of political office.[10]

Last years and death

In his later years, Goulding spent much of his time at his cottage in Raheenleigh near Myshall, County Carlow. He died of cancer in his native Dublin, and was survived by three sons and a daughter. He was cremated and his ashes scattered, at his directive, at the site known as "the Nine Stones" on the slopes of Mount Leinster.


  1. ^ Cathal Goulding, Thinker, Socialist, Republican, Revolutionary 1923–1998. Workers' Party. 1999. p. 35.
  2. ^ Hanley and Miller, p. 2
  3. ^ Hanley and Miller, p. 2
  4. ^ Hanley and Miller, p. 3
  5. ^ Moloney, Ed (2002). A Secret History of the IRA. Penguin Books. p. 80. ISBN 0-14-101041-X.
  6. ^ Hanley and Miller, p. 8
  7. ^ The IRA 12th impression, Tim Pat Coogan, pages 346-347, William Collins, Sons & Co., Glasgow, 1987
  8. ^ Hanley and Miller, p. 10
  9. ^ J. Bowyer Bell, The Secret Army, 1979, Irish Academy Press; Robert W. White, Ruairi O Bradaigh: The Life and Politics of An Irish Revolutionary, Indiana University Press, 2006.
  10. ^ "Workers' Party braces itself for another painful schism", Irish Times, 4 January 1992.


  • Hanley, Brian; Millar, Scott (2009). The Lost Revolution: The Story of the Official IRA and the Workers' Party. Dublin: Penguin Ireland. ISBN 978-1844881208.
  • T. E. Utley, The Lessons of Ulster (1975) (Friends of the Union, 1997)
  • The Workers' Party, "Cathal Goulding: Thinker, Socialist, Republican, Revolutionary, 1923–1998", (1999).

External links

1998 in Ireland

Events from the year 1998 in Ireland.

Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army

Several people are reported to have served as Chief of Staff of the Irish Republican Army (Irish: Ceann Foirne Óglaigh na hÉireann) in the organisations bearing that name. Due to the clandestine nature of these organisations, this list is not definitive.

They should not be confused with the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces (Ireland).

Clann na hÉireann

Clann na hÉireann was a support organisation for Sinn Féin based in Great Britain during the 1960s and 1970s

Joe McCann

Joe McCann (2 November 1947 – 15 April 1972) was an Irish republican volunteer. A member of the Irish Republican Army and later the Official Irish Republican Army, he was active in politics from the early 1960s and participated in the early years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. He was shot aged 24 by Benjamin Argueta of the RUC, after being confronted by RUC Special Branch and British paratroopers in 1972.

John Joe McGirl

John Joe McGirl (25 March 1921 – 8 December 1988) was an Irish republican, a Sinn Féin politician, and a former chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Larry Grogan

Larry Grogan (Irish: Labhras Gruagain;1899–1979) was an Irish republican activist.

Born in Drogheda, Grogan joined the Irish Volunteers at the age of 18, which subsequently became part of the original Irish Republican Army (IRA). He was active in the Irish War of Independence, then in the Irish Civil War in the anti-treaty IRA. He was imprisoned in Mountjoy Prison in 1922, and was subsequently interned in the Curragh Camp, where he kept an autograph book, collecting signatures including that of Michael Hilliard.Grogan remained an active republican, and was elected to the IRA Army Council in 1938. In this capacity, he signed the ultimatum to the British government declaring that, if major concessions were not made immediately, a Sabotage Campaign would be initiated. In September 1939, he was arrested along with the majority of the Council, and kept at Arbour Hill Prison. The following year, he was transferred to the Curragh, and assumed command of the IRA internees. He decided to organise them in an effort to improve conditions, and in December the group burnt down several wooden huts. This led to a clampdown, including solitary confinement and an incident in which soldiers fired on the inmates, killing one; Grogan was subsequently removed from the camp and given a prison term. Some of his time in gaol was spent with Brendan Behan, and the two remained friends, Behan often visiting Grogan after the war.Grogan was released in March 1945, and immediately endorsed efforts to rebuild the IRA. By the end of the decade, he had been appointed IRA Quartermaster General. He voted to launch the Border Campaign in 1956, and was arrested and again interned in Mountjoy in January 1957. One year later, he was joined by his son. On this occasion, the internees were led by Dáithí Ó Conaill, but older leaders such as Grogan were regularly consulted. While in gaol, he contested Louth for Sinn Féin at the 1957 Irish general election, taking 9.6% of the first preference votes.Released before the end of the decade, Grogan became increasingly associated with the conservative wing of the movement. He stood again in Louth at the 1961 Irish general election, managing only 4.5% of the vote, and became a vice-president of Sinn Féin in 1962, serving until 1969. In the split of 1970, Grogan supported the provisional wing, remaining on Sinn Féin's Ard Chomhairle.

Manus Canning

Manus Canning (died 16 March 2018) was an Irish republican politician and paramilitary.

Born in Derry, Canning spent time in Gweedore practising the Irish language before working in London for a few years in the late 1940s. He had returned to Derry by April 1951, when he secretly attached the flag of Ireland to the top of Walker's Pillar in the city. He joined the Irish Republican Army's Derry Unit, which successfully raided the Ebrington Barracks of the British Army. As a result of this experience, Canning was sent to England in 1953, where he, Cathal Goulding and Seán Mac Stíofáin raided the British Officers Training Corps School, obtaining a significant amount of weaponry. However, the three were caught when their vehicle was stopped in London. They received prison sentences of eight years each, which they spent at Wormwood Scrubs.While in prison, Canning stood for Sinn Féin in Londonderry at the 1955 general election, taking 35.5% of the vote. He stood again in 1959, when the party attempted a public campaign on his behalf, but he took only 27% of the vote. He also taught Mac Stíofáin to speak Irish. On release, he was sent by the IRA to Germany and Austria to source ammunition for future attacks.In 1960, Canning moved to New York City to work for a publishing company. At the request of the IRA, he and Vincent Conlon assumed the leadership of Clan na Gael in the hope of raising additional funds for the IRA, although this had little immediate effect.While in New York, Canning spent time with Brendan Behan, and in 1964 met Naoko, the couple later marrying and moving back to Derry. He died in the city in March 2018.

Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was an organisation that campaigned for civil rights in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Formed in Belfast on 9 April 1967, the civil rights campaign attempted to achieve reform by publicising, documenting, and lobbying for an end to discrimination in areas such as elections (which were subject to gerrymandering and property requirements), discrimination in employment, in public housing and alleged abuses of the Special Powers Act. The genesis of the organisation lay in a meeting in Maghera in August 1966 between the Wolfe Tone Societies which was attended by Cathal Goulding, then chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).During its formation, NICRA's membership extended to trade unionists, communists, liberals, socialists, with republicans eventually constituting five of the 13 members of its executive council. The organisation initially also had some unionists, with Young Unionist Robin Cole taking a position on its executive council. Official Sinn Féin and Official IRA influence over NICRA grew in later years, but only as the latter's importance declined, when violence escalated between late 1969 until 1972, when NICRA ceased its work.

Official Irish Republican Army

The Official Irish Republican Army or Official IRA (OIRA; Irish: Óglaigh na hÉireann Oifigiúil) was an Irish republican paramilitary group whose goal was to remove Northern Ireland from the United Kingdom and create a "workers' republic" encompassing all of Ireland. It emerged in December 1969, shortly after the beginning of the Troubles, when the Irish Republican Army split into two factions. The other was the Provisional IRA. Each continued to call itself simply "the IRA" and rejected the other's legitimacy. Unlike the "Provisionals", the "Officials" didn’t think that Ireland could be unified until the Protestant majority and Catholic minority were at peace with each other. The Officials were Marxist and worked to form a united front with other Irish communist groups, named the Irish National Liberation Front (NLF). The Officials were called the NLF by the Provisionals and were sometimes nicknamed the "Red IRA" by others.It waged a limited campaign against the British Army, mainly involving shooting and bombing attacks on troops in urban working-class neighbourhoods. Most notably, it was involved in the 1970 Falls Curfew and carried out the 1972 Aldershot bombing. In May 1972, it declared a ceasefire and vowed to limit its actions to defence and retaliation. By this time, the Provisional IRA had become the larger and more active faction. Following the ceasefire, the OIRA began to be referred to as "Group B" within the Official movement. It became involved in feuds with the Provisional IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), an OIRA splinter group formed in 1974. It has also been involved in organized crime and vigilantism.

The Official IRA was linked to the political party Official Sinn Féin, later renamed Sinn Féin - the Workers Party and then the Workers' Party of Ireland.

Paddy O'Callaghan

Paddy O'Callaghan (born 1934) is a former Irish amateur cycling champion and a onetime Official Sinn Féin member of Kerry County Council. He is a second cousin of former United States vice-president Dick Cheney but differs strongly with his political point of view being a member of the Workers' Party for many years.

O'Callaghan was born in County Kerry in 1934. As a youth he became active in the National Athletic & Cultural Association of Ireland (NACAI, now known as Cycling Ireland) and particularly in the sport of cycling. In 1956 he won the Irish Cycling Championship taking the 100mile TT in 1956 with a time of 4 hours and 27 minutes. In more recent years he has been involved with the FBD Rás cycling competition.

At the time one of the NACAI's most prominent members and a national cycling champion was Dublin born Joe Christle who was also an active member of the Irish Republican Army. Under Christle's influence O'Callaghan joined the Irish republican movement however he remained a member when Christle was dismissed from the movement in the mid-1950s for taking unofficial action against British forces in Northern Ireland.

Paddy O'Callaghan became a member of the Ard Comhairle (national executive) of Sinn Féin in the early 1960s and was close to the leadership of President Tomás Mac Giolla and IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Goulding. When the movement split in 1969/70 O'Callaghan remained loyal to the Goulding leadership and was influential in swaying the majority of his South Kerry comrades in the IRA and Sinn Féin to remain in the movement.

He was also very active in local community development issues in the South Kerry area and was a founding member of both Killorglin Credit Union and Kerry Mountain Rescue.

In the 1967 local elections O'Callaghan was elected for Sinn Féin in the Killorglin ward.

In the early 1970s O'Callaghan was elected to Kerry County Council representing Official Sinn Féin. He also contested a number of general elections in the Kerry South constituency and was a substitute candidate under the list system for the party in a number of elections to the European Parliament.

For many years he also operated a bicycle sale and hire shop in Killarney.

O'Callaghan remains active as an adjudicator and commentator in cycling and as a member South Kerry Development Partnership and several other initiatives.

Paudge Behan

Paudge Rodger Behan ( PAWJ BEE-ən; born 18 January 1965) is an Irish actor and writer. The son of IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Goulding and Beatrice ffrench-Salkeld, the widow of playwright Brendan Behan, Paudge Behan worked briefly as a journalist for a Dublin newspaper before turning to acting. After a series of minor film and television roles in the 1990s, he was handpicked by English novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford to appear as the male lead in a 1999 dramatisation of her book A Secret Affair (1996).

Behan has also appeared in the feature films A Man of No Importance (1994), Conspiracy of Silence (2003) and Veronica Guerin (2003), and has taken leading roles in two short films, A Lonely Sky (2006) and Wake Up (2007). He has also auditioned unsuccessfully for Neighbours and popular UK black comedy, Doctors.

Roy Johnston

Roy H.W. Johnston (born 1929) is an Irish physicist. He was a Marxist who as a member of the IRA in the 1960s argued for a National Liberation Strategy to unite the Catholic and Protestant working classes. He wrote extensively for such newspapers as The United Irishman and The Irish Times.

Seán Garland

Seán Garland (7 March 1934 – 13 December 2018) was the President of the Workers' Party in Ireland from 1977 to 1999.

Seán Mac Stíofáin

Seán Mac Stíofáin (17 February 1928 – 18 May 2001), born John Stephenson, was an English-born chief of staff of the Provisional IRA, a position he held between 1969 and 1972.

Seán Ó Cionnaith

Seán Ó Cionnaith (born July 1938 near Ballinasloe, County Galway, died 16 February 2003 in Dublin) was an Irish socialist republican politician, and a prominent member of the Workers' Party.

Ó Cionnaith joined the Irish republican movement as a teenager, and in the late 1950s he became an activist with Na Fianna Éireann, the movement's youth section. He spent some periods of work in England as organizer for Clann na hÉireann, but eventually based himself in Dublin where he continued as a member of Sinn Féin.Ó Cionnaith was a supporter of the efforts to move Sinn Féin into a more socialist position and was a close confidante of figures such as IRA Chief of Staff Cathal Goulding, along with Seán Garland and Tomás Mac Giolla. He strongly opposed the emergence of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, regarding its campaign as sectarian.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, Ó Cionnaith developed a number of campaigning organisations including the Dublin Housing Action Committee, the Gaeltacht Civil Rights Movement (Coiste Cearta Síbialta na Gaeilge), the Resources Protection Campaign and the campaign to end the control by private landlords over the fishing rights to Irish rivers and lakes.He identified with the socialist cause and its internationalist outlook and was involved in many solidarity campaigns with Cuba, Korea, Nicaragua and Vietnam.

In the 1970s he became joint General Secretary of Official Sinn Féin (later Sinn Féin the Workers Party and ultimately The Workers' Party) along with Máirín de Burca.

Ó Cionnaith served as Director of International Affairs of the Workers' Party for years, and was the party's representative in the United States during the early 1970s.

He remained with the Workers' party after the split which led to the formation of Democratic Left.

Ó Cionnaith was co-opted as a member of Dublin City Council in the mid 1990s. Most notable was his leading role in the campaign for the replacement of dangerous and unreliable lifts in the Ballymun high-rise complex which saw the local community win a landmark court case against the local authority. He lost his Council seat in 1999 and was unsuccessful in standing for the 2002 Dáil election in Dublin North-West.On 15 February 2003 Seán Ó Cionnaith joined over 100,000 Irish people who participated in a major march in Dublin against the impending US / UK led invasion of Iraq. He died suddenly early the following morning.

Tomás Mac Giolla

Tomás Mac Giolla ([ˈt̪ˠʊmˠaːsˠ mˠək ˈɡɪl̪ˠə]; born Thomas Gill; 25 January 1924 – 4 February 2010) was an Irish Workers' Party politician who served as Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1993 to 1994, Leader of the Workers' Party from 1962 to 1988 and Leader of Sinn Féin from 1962 to 1970. He served as a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dublin West constituency from 1982 to 1992.

Tony Magan

Tony (Anthony) Magan (15 December 1910 – 4 July 1981) was an Irish republican and chief of staff of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Wolfe Tone Societies

The Wolfe Tone Societies (Irish: Muintir Wolfe Tone) is an Irish republican group whose chief objective is the establishment of a 'united Irish Republic.' It evolved from the commemorative Directories which the IRA helped set up in 1963 to mark the bicentenary of the 1763 birth of Wolfe Tone. In 1964 the Directories were dissolved and replaced with the Wolfe Tone Society. The publication of the Wolf Tone Society from 1965 onward was called Tuairisc.

Workers' Party of Ireland

The Workers' Party (Irish: Páirtí na nOibrithe), originally known as Official Sinn Féin, is a Marxist–Leninist political party active throughout Ireland. The party originated with a split between factions of Sinn Féin (which was founded in 1905) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which took place in 1969–70, early in the Troubles. The faction that broke away became known as the Provisional Irish Republican Army and Provisional Sinn Féin. The Officials' leaders at the time the Provisionals left were Cathal Goulding and Tomás Mac Giolla.

The party name was changed to Sinn Féin - The Workers' Party in 1977 and then to the Workers' Party in 1982. Throughout its history, the party has been closely associated with the Official Irish Republican Army. It supported the Soviet Union while that entity existed. Notable organisations that derived from it include Democratic Left and the Irish Republican Socialist Party.

Chiefs of Staff
Prominent killings


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.