10 December 2005

Oppose the Extradition of Sean Garland


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Danny Morrison

In his presidential address to the ard fheis of the Workers Party in October Sean Garland taunted the Republican Movement three times when he claimed that by decommissioning its arms the IRA had surrendered. However, his tirade was delivered by Des O’Hagan because Garland himself was in custody having been arrested the previous night at a Belfast restaurant by the PSNI on foot of a US extradition warrant.

The warrant alleges that Garland was in conspiracy with English criminals (who were subsequently convicted and jailed) and the North Korean communist government, and that he used his Workers’ Party position as a front and Official IRA Volunteers as a conduit, to circulate up to a million dollars of counterfeit US currency. Known as superdollars the currency is believed to be printed on highly sophisticated machines by the North Korean government and are of such quality that they often deceive experts.

Last year, BBC’s Panorama, using secret recordings and police undercover footage, did an expose of the counterfeiting cartel which was first discovered twelve years ago when North Korean diplomats - the only people allowed to travel outside the state - were caught passing on the superdollars.

The programme, quoting General Vladimir Uskov of the Russian Interior Police, claimed that Sean Garland had regularly visited the North Korean Embassy in Moscow and that this was the distribution centre for the counterfeit money. However, all of the evidence presented on Panorama was circumstantial.

The programme showed that Terence Silcock, who was sentenced to six years, was a regular visitor to Dublin (booking return flights - but returning by ferry), that he and Garland were in Moscow at the same time and that Silcock telephoned Garland’s mobile number from his Moscow hotel.

One of the gang, Hugh Todd, ‘the Irish courier’ alleged to have brought the dollars from Dublin to Birmingham for distribution and laundering through David Levin, a Russian criminal, told police his boss was called “Sean… He’s a communist, he has communist beliefs which is what the old IRA is.” He also said: “He’s old school … he’s the Colonel-in-Chief of the IRA.”

Garland was arrested in Belfast and was subsequently granted £10,000 bail provided he stayed at the Downpatrick home of Des O’Hagan. His bail conditions were later amended to allow the 71-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, to leave the jurisdiction and go to Navan for medical treatment, near his home.

Last week Garland failed to appear in Belfast court and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

It was either the height of stupidity or cockiness - having been named in Worcester Crown Court and on British television as one of the major players in the conspiracy, and knowing that a US investigation was on his trail - for Sean Garland to have come to Belfast to attend his party’s ard fheis. Maybe cockiness – after all, at the height of the conflict senior Workers Party members often seemed immune from arrest and were certainly bosom drinking pals of RUC detectives and leading figures in the UVF.

Garland has said that he has skipped bail on the grounds that Britain’s extradition treaty with the USA is “grossly unjust” and that in a US court he would not get justice. Clearly, the US authorities, who had the warrant for six months and could have issued it in the South, waited until Garland was in the North and subject to the UK-US Extradition Treaty Act. That act has lower standards of proof than the agreement between Ireland and the US and does not require the requesting country to make a prima facie case.

Undoubtedly, Garland would not receive justice in a US court – neither a fair trial nor in terms of the sentence imposed were he found guilty.

The Irish authorities could now face extradition requests from Britain to have Garland returned to the North or from the USA for his extradition which will certainly force all the political parties in the South to declare their stance. His defence will be relying on the political exception clause even though this has been virtually whittled away over the years in cases involving Irish republicans.

Since his arrest the Workers Party has launched an anti-extradition campaign, which has attracted support from many who never expressed their opposition to extradition in the past.

As a young man Garland was a courageous IRA Volunteer who took part in the Brookeborough raid in 1957 when his comrades Sean South and Feargal O’Hanlon were killed. He became a Marxist in the 1960s and after the split was a leading member of the Sticks.

The first republican killed in a feud was at the hands of the Sticks – IRA Volunteer Charlie Hughes in 1971. When the Sticks split again in 1974 the first republican killed in their feud with the emergent Irish Republican Socialist Party was also at their hands – Hugh Ferguson in 1975.

The Workers Party, which started out as Official Sinn Fein, was run by a bitter, twisted leadership. The group continued to be armed, continued with its paramilitary activities, whilst recognising, supporting and calling upon people to cooperate with the RUC. Its leadership was indulged by the state, certainly in the North. The party supported the broadcasting ban in the North and supported (if not ran) state censorship through Section 31 in the South; opposed political status for prisoners and the hunger strike; demonised Sinn Fein; and supported the extradition of Irish republicans from the southern jurisdiction to the North and to Britain, Holland, Belgium, France and Germany. Indeed, Garland’s predecessor as president of the party, Proinsias De Rossa, in May 1990, asked the Minister for Justice in the Dail, “if he intends taking any steps to reassure public opinion in Northern Ireland that persons suspected of serious offences there will not find refuge in the Republic.”

How ironic.

Internationally, the Workers Party supported Stalinism in the USSR, Soviet imperialism and various dictatorships – including, of course, North Korea where Kim Jong Il’s Superdollar Publications is based. It suffered more splits in the 1990s and in 1998 it split again with a new organisation, a lot closer to original republican sentiment, emerging and exorcising itself of much of the party’s shameful past.

Sean Garland has no chance of getting justice in the USA and it is on that basis – not out of sympathy for the man or his party – that his extradition should be opposed and resisted. Party spokesperson, John Lowry, pompously claimed that the arrest was “politically motivated. It was designed because the Workers Party stand opposed to the war in Iraq, we stand opposed to the policies of the US administration.”

I hadn’t realised how towering and influential a figure Sean Garland was in the anti-war movement.

Perhaps at some stage we could theoretically debate whether the organised distribution of counterfeit USA dollars is in certain circumstances a legitimate, revolutionary act – something akin to robbing a bank without actually going into the bank – or is in all circumstances a criminal act.

Now, who would like to kick off that debate! The not-so-busy Independent Monitoring Commission?

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