Sean Garland, a leading member of Ireland’s Workers’ Party, and a veteran figure in Irish politics, learned on Friday 27 January that, whilst he is no longer in danger of being extradited to the USA, he may yet face trial in Ireland on charges of involvement in a supposed plot to distribute counterfeit US currency, so-called ‘superdollars’, purportedly manufactured in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
Garland, a 76-year-old man who suffers from a range of ailments, including cancer, angina and diabetes, has had to live under the shadow of extradition to the USA, an effective death sentence given his age and health, since 7 October 2005, when he was arrested in Belfast under a warrant requested by the US Attorney for the District of Columbia while attending his party’s annual conference.
Granted bail and allowed to go the Republic of Ireland for medical treatment, he wisely declined to return to the British-ruled north and remained at liberty, despite a Belfast court issuing a warrant for his arrest when he failed to appear for a scheduled hearing in December 2005. He was eventually arrested in Dublin on 30 January 2009, following the request of a fresh extradition warrant pushed through by Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in the last days of the George W Bush administration.
Following this arrest, Garland was subject to a draconian set of bail conditions, which included:
> Cash lodged: €100,000
> Surety: €300,000
> Surrender of deeds to the family home
> Surrender of passport
> Signing on at a specific Garda (police) station four days a week
> For overnight travel within the Irish state, 48 hours notice to apply for permission to sign in at a different Garda station
> For a longer stopover, eight days notice required
> Mobile phone to be on at all times
Finally, in a court hearing on 21 December 2011, Justice John Edwards refused the US extradition request, stating that he would give his reasons on 13 January, a date later postponed until 27 January.
Following the refusal of the US extradition request, Rev Chris Hudson, chair of the Stop the Extradition of Sean Garland Campaign, commented:
“This has been a horrendous six-year ordeal for Sean, his family and friends, and I am delighted with the progress we have made today.
“I have always believed that the US extradition demand was a vindictive act by the former Bush administration designed to punish and isolate north Korea and anyone who had connections with that country.
“Although this decision is to be welcomed, it does not mark the end of this campaign. We must now redouble our efforts to have this extradition warrant withdrawn completely by the United States to allow Sean Garland and his family the right to travel at will outside of Ireland without fear of arrest and detention.”
This important victory came as a result of an active political campaign in support of Garland, that secured backing across the political spectrum in Ireland as well as internationally.
Garland’s place in Irish history
Although his Workers’ Party has been reduced to a marginal role in recent years, Garland himself is a major figure in modern Irish history.
He was born in Dublin on 7 March 1934. He joined the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1953 and in April 1954, on instructions from the leadership of the IRA, he joined the British Army in order to secure information for the planning of an arms raid on Gough Barracks, Armagh. As a result of this information, a successful raid for arms took place on 12 June 1954.
Sean Garland left the British Army in October 1954 and soon after he became a full-time training officer in the IRA. He was actively involved in organising and participating in a number of major operations from 1955-56. In December 1956 he was in charge of a column that took part in what was called Operation Harvest. On 1 January 1957 he led the column that attacked Brookeborough Barracks.
During the course of this attack two members of the column were killed, Sean South and Fergal O’Hanlon, whose sacrifices gave rise to the timeless Irish revolutionary ballads, ‘Sean South of Garryowen’ and ‘The Patriot Game’. Sean Garland was seriously wounded along with three other members of the column. They made their way over the mountains to the Irish Republic and he was hospitalised for some weeks.
During the course of his IRA career, Garland was imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail Dublin on a number of occasions and was interned from July 1957 to early 1959. He was also imprisoned in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast from September 1959 to August 1962. On release he was active in organising campaigns for the release of Irish prisoners in English jails.
However, from the time that the IRA called off the border campaign in 1962, Garland became centrally involved in a faction within the republican movement that sought to divert the IRA and Sinn Fein away from the national-liberation struggle. This grouping considered itself socialist and Marxist and was heavily influenced by revisionist trends inside the international communist movement.
But whereas communists should be the most ardent supporters of the anti-imperialist struggle for national liberation (see ‘Communists and the struggle against imperialism’ Proletarian, December 2011), this group, which ultimately became today’s Irish Workers’ Party, saw the struggle to end partition as a diversion from the struggle to unite protestant and catholic workers in a joint struggle for socialism.
When the civil-rights struggle in the British occupied six counties met with brutal repression, which in turn triggered a renewed anti-imperialist armed struggle, this position became increasingly untenable and the republican movement formally split at the end of 1969 and the beginning of 1970. Garland was a leader of the so-called Official IRA, which called off its armed struggle against British imperialism in May 1972, but retained a shadowy existence for purposes that included periodic armed attacks on anti-imperialists.
Support for the DPRK
Despite this bitter history, which included denouncing the 1981 hunger strikers, 10 of whom sacrificed their lives, and calling on nationalist people in the north to inform on liberation fighters to the British occupiers, leading members of Sinn Fein, including Gerry Adams, have given strong support to Garland’s campaign against extradition. Sinn Fein TD (member of the Dublin parliament) Martin Ferris said that his party was backing Garland “100 percent”. (See ‘Bid to extradite Garland opposed’, Irish Times, 14 July 2011)
The Irish Workers’ Party developed close links with the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) from the early 1980s and Sean Garland was personally deeply involved in helping to promote friendly ties between Ireland and Korea in the political, cultural and commercial spheres. The US hounding of Garland, therefore, has been not only an attack on him and his party, but above all on the socialist DPRK.
The US has never produced a scrap of evidence for its ludicrous assertion that the DPRK is somehow engaged in a massive operation to print and distribute counterfeit ‘superdollars’. Indeed, a number of studies have suggested that their source is the USA itself.
But the USA has used the allegations to present the DPRK as a ‘criminal’ and ‘soprano’ state, to freeze it out of the international banking system, to intensify sanctions and further restrict trade, thereby causing hardship to the Korean people, and to scupper the six-party talks, which held out the prospect of the DPRK being able to normalise its relations with the USA and Japan.
In giving his reasons not to extradite Garland, Justice Edwards said that he was referring the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions. He said that the alleged offence was regarded as having been committed in Ireland and therefore, under Irish law, extradition was precluded under the 1965 Extradition Act.
He added that the deeds to Garland’s house would be released, along with his passport and cash bail.
The campaign now needs to continue to demand the dropping of all charges and indictments against Sean Garland, whether in Ireland, the USA, UK or any other jurisdiction, as well as for a complete end to the hostile policies directed at the DPRK by the USA and other imperialist powers, of which Garland’s persecution is just a part.