Cathal Goulding

Cathal Goulding
Born (1923-01-02)2 January 1923
Dublin, Ireland
Died 26 December 1998(1998-12-26) (aged 75)
Dublin, Ireland
Political party Official Sinn Féin
Workers' Party of Ireland
Spouse(s) Patty Germaine (m. 1950; separated)
Beatrice Behan (née ffrench-Salkeld)
Children Cathal Og Goulding
Paudge Behan
Aodhgan Goulding
Banban Goulding

Military career

Allegiance Republic of Ireland Irish Republic
Service/branch Irish Republican Army
Official Irish Republican Army
Years of service 1939–1972
Rank Chief of Staff
Quartermaster General
Battles/wars The Troubles
Other work Political activist

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.

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] 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.[7]

Chief of staff

In 1959, Goulding was appointed IRA Quartermaster General and in 1962 he succeeded Ruairí Ó Brádaigh as IRA Chief of Staff. In February 1966, together with Sean 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.

Goulding was instrumental in moving the IRA to the left in the 1960s.[8] 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 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. 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. However, in 1992, 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 the Democratic Left as having compromised socialism in the pursuit of political office.[9]

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. Hanley and Miller, p. 10
  8. 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.
  9. "Workers' Party braces itself for another painful schism", Irish Times, 4 January 1992.


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