It has taken an American scholar, Benjamin Young of George Washington University to take up a subject that, with a very few exceptions, Irish journalism and academic historians have avoided like the plague.
It is the story of the long and mutually fruitful relationship between the Irish Workers Party (aka ‘the Sticks’ or the Official IRA’s political wing) and the North Korean regime, an association from which the Sticks derived military assistance and access to counterfeit US dollars, and the regime of Kim Il Sung (the grand-daddy of the current Kim) gained a friend in Europe (where otherwise there were few).
Contacts began as early as 1977 but were not formally cemented until 1983 when WP chairman Sean Garland and press officer Sean O Cionnaith traveled to Pyonyang where they met the regime’s Foreign Affairs minister. The WP had two seats in Dail Eireann at the time.
The United States subsequently sought Garland’s extradition to face charges of circulating counterfeit, so-called ‘super dollars’ manufactured by North Korea, but in 2011 the Irish Supreme Court ruled against the American authorities and Garland was again a free man.
Garland was a senior figure in the WP’s military wing, the Official IRA and had a track record as a republican activist dating back to the 1956-62 campaign.
Young also touches on efforts by the Provos to cuddle up to the North Koreans and revealed that in 1987 Gerry Adams visited the North Korean ambassador in Denmark where together they toasted the 75th birthday of grandpa Kim.
Sinn Fein also sent delegations to N Korea in the wake of the 1988 Seoul Olympic games and again in 1989, three senior Shinners, including Sheena Campbell, later assassinated by the UVF, were guests at a youth conference in Pyongyang.
Young writes this about military co-operation between the Official IRA and North Korea:
In October 1988, six members of the WPI’s paramilitary branch, which was cryptically referred to as “Group B” in a key WPI document, flew from Ireland to Pyongyang via Moscow. In a military training camp 30 miles north of Pyongyang, the six Group B members were taught kidnapping techniques, explosives detonation, Korean martial arts, and learned that the best way to kill a man was to “stab a man in the back of the neck, and then twist, cutting into the cerebral cortex.”
A cynic might suggest that one skill in which the Sticks did not need tuition was stabbing people in the back!
Young has also written a paper detailing similar links between Pyonyang and the Black Panthers.
Thanks to the Irish Republican Education Forum for drawing my attention to this interesting study. Enjoy: