A former chief of staff of the INLA, Gino Gallagher was assassinated 25 years ago this week. In this article, Peter Urban of the International Republican Socialist Network recalls his comrade.
In 1996, 25 years ago today, Gino Gallagher was murdered by a petty criminal scumbag, under the direction of a small group of expelled INLA volunteers, who sold their souls to their imperial masters to avoid going back to jail, after botching an arms smuggling operation.
Of course the bourgeois media had a field day writing about yet another INLA “feud,” and the ex-volunteers played their roles well--even going so far as dressing up a couple of girlfriends in INLA uniforms in order to maintain the pretence while burying on of the clique killed by the INLA, but the reality was that the entire IRSM stood in unprecedented unity in mourning the loss of our comrade Gino Gallagher.
Gino was only 32 when he was shot down coming out of the office after signing on the dole, but was Chief of Staff of the Irish National Liberation Army and a member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party’s collective leadership and its National Organiser.
After coming out of gaol in 1991, he had almost single-handedly restored the confidence and pride of the Irish Republican Socialist Movement and pulled the movement back from the brink of extinction and put it back on track as the representatives of the most advanced consciousness of the Irish working class.
I was proud to have provided many of the books that Gino had used to transform the prison into his own university and smiled inwardly every time he quoted the German revolutionary Levine that revolutionaries were just dead men on holiday, remembering when I’d included the book on the leader of the Munich Soviet in a Nollaig parcel for RSPOWs. His mother had kept in periodic contact and sent me a mass card from his funeral. She and her husband had been so proud of their son, Gino, and the leadership he provided to the IRSM.
He was born on 12 October 1963 and grew up in West Belfast. Inspired by the 1981 hunger strike and a strong interest in Irish history, he joined the Irish Republican Socialist Movement’s youth wing, the Patsy O’Hara Youth Movement (named for one of the INLA prisoners who died during the 1981 hunger strike), and later joined the IRSP and the INLA. Imprisoned by the British on three occasions, he emerged from prison a very dedicated and well-read activist.
He was the author of the “defense and retaliation” position of the INLA, which proved to be a serious obstacle to the PIRA’s drive towards ending the national liberation struggle. So much so, when news of his death was first made known, a group of INLA volunteers stormed the Sinn Fein office on the Falls Road, so certain where they that the PIRA was behind the killing. In a manner of speaking, I still think they were; certainly they did nothing against the bastard who shot him, despite him already being under PIRA orders to get out of Belfast for his criminal activities.
The loyalist murder gangs feared Gino and he’d been responsible for removing several key figures from their ranks and when loyalists set seige to nationalist working class neighbourhoods, Gino ensured that the INLA could be counted upon for their defense.
It is a fool’s game to play at “what if” when it comes to fallen comrades. Perhaps Gino would have thwarted the developments that led to the INLA laying down its arms, perhaps not; but while he was still alive, he demonstrated a clear understanding of the role for a revolutionary working class paramilitary body within the context of the occupied six counties and saw to it that the INLA operated in that manner.
He eschewed the cult of personality cultivated by lesser lights with greater egos before him and built a collective leadership for the IRSM that weathered his assassination with greater integrity than at any time before.
Gino Gallagher was a personal hero of mine. A person of integrity, vision, charisma, and commitment. We shall not see the likes of him again soon. His life was snuffed out by cowards and scum, directed by the hand of British intelligence, as the INLA’s own intelligence had conclusively proven at the time.
When reflecting on the death of martyrs of the Republican Socialist Movement, I am often moved to raise a salute. I will do so now for Gino Gallagher, but first I will have to let the tears clear from my eyes and the catch clear from my throat. A memorial has been erected to Gino on the Lower Falls, but there is only one fitting memorial for Gino’s memory; the reunification of Ireland as a 32-county Irish workers’ republic. Let us set about building that now.