Gino Gallagher 1963-1996 – Tribute To A Revolutionary
Contemporary IRSP activists and especially younger Irish Republican Socialists, who may not have known him owe much to Gino Gallagher, not least being that he is credited with refurbishing Costello House, the IRSPs national headquarters on Belfast’s Falls Road. At his insistence, Costello House was transformed from being a run-down building into something resembling the party offices that exist there today. Gino Gallagher, in his then role as IRSP POW spokesperson was responsible for obtaining the repatriation of INLA prisoners from English gaols. He also was instrumental in forcing the NIO to agree to negotiating rights for the Irish Republican Socialist Party in relation to the INLA prisoners in Long Kesh.
INLA Chief of Staff
A feared military operator, who at the time of his death was Chief of Staff of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) he was also a highly politicized Republican Socialist activist who embodied Ta Power’s doctrine of ‘every soldier a politician, every politician a soldier‘. Gino Gallagher was instrumental in promoting the central tenets of Ta Power’s analysis and vision for the Republican Socialist Movement which stressed the primacy of politics. Gino Gallagher described Ta Power as, ‘the biggest influence in my life.’ Tragically, both men were to meet similar cruel ends, cut down by the Judas bullets of counter-revolutionaries.
Gino Gallagher was made INLA Chief of Staff following the arrest and subsequent expulsion of Hugh Torney and his associates when they declared an unauthorised INLA ceasefire from the dock of a Dublin courtroom in 1995, in return for a successful bail application after their arrest in Ballbriggan. By all accounts, Torney had been a one-dimensional militarist, at best, and his tenure as INLA Chief of Staff was marked by his concerted attempts at running down the political wing, the IRSP. Torney would have resented Gino Gallagher’s reversal of the IRSP’s political fortunes and his drive to make the party the significant player it had once been.
Death of a Revolutionary
Gino Gallagher was cruelly shot dead as he waited to sign-on at the Falls Road offices of the Social Security Agency, on the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 1996. The assassin who the Torney cabal hired to murder one of the IRSM’s most able leaders was Kevin McAlorum, the career criminal son of an infamous North Belfast drugs dealer. Both Torney and McAlorum met violent ends, the former only 8 months later on 3 September 1996 and the hired assassin 8 years later on June 4th, 2004, by grim irony only the day after Gino Gallagher’s father’s funeral.
Even in death the forces of reaction feared and hated Gino Gallagher, heavily armed RUC and British army stormtroopers invaded the family home, disrupted the funeral procession and beat mourners. Gino Gallagher was buried in Milltown cemetery on 2 February, 1996, with the funeral oration delivered by IRSP Ard Chomhairle member, Michael McCormick, who paid tribute to his political activism and revolutionary zeal. The oration praised Gino Gallagher’s promotion of ‘open democratic discussion,’ his struggle against ‘elitist, militaristic and non-political attitudes in the movement’ and how he, through determined activism ‘along with others, revitalised the Republican Socialist Movement.’ Gino Gallagher’s funeral oration ended with the sentence:
“Finally, as we lay this Volunteer and Comrade ino the soft green soil of his native land, remember him each time you gaze into the stars and see there etched across the sky, the Plough and the Stars!”
Today, his cowardly killer and those who hired him have been dispatched to the dustbin of history but Gino Gallagher’s image is immortalised in murals and commemorative plaques in his native west Belfast. Though times have changed greatly since 1996, Gino Gallagher’s legacy lives on in a revitalised IRSP that has fully endorsed the primacy of politics and continues to represent the interests of working-class people.
Saoirse go deo!
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