“we state in confidence to you, that we do not allow ourselves to be restricted in the methods of raising resources… legal and illegal means have been employed by us” Letter from the Workers’ Party to the East German communist party in 1989
Today, they’re respectable. Two senior members of a coalition government, An Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore (57) and Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte (63).
But back in 1989, both were TDs for the Workers’ Party on whose murky past, more light is today shed in the Irish Times which has obtained a letter written by the party to the notorious East German Socialist Unity Party of Germany (known by its German acronym SED). The SED was “notorious” because it oversaw a draconian and ultimately failed governance of a divided German people and it supported like-minded political parties across the globe.
In the letter written in 1989 to the SED by the Workers’ Party general secretary, Sean Garland, the Irish Times reports that it was confirmed by the Workers’ Party that “illegal means have been employed” by that party in raising funds. The Irish Times itself elaborates that this was a confirmation of what was already widely known – “its military wing, the Official IRA, was involved in bank robberies and racketeering” writes the newspaper.
In 1989 both Messrs Gilmore and Rabbitte were leading lights in the Workers’ Party – being two of the seven party TDs elected in that year’s General Election. Eamon Gilmore had been a Workers’ Party councilor on the Dublin County Council since 1985 and in 1989 was elected TD for Dun Laoghaire where he has been re-elected ever since. Likewise, Pat Rabbitte had been a Workers’ Party councilor on the Dublin County Council since 1985 and in 1989 became the TD for Dublin South West.
There is no evidence adduced today of either’s direct involvement in the “illegal means employed” by the party and it is an unashamedly loaded question to ask “how involved in racketeering and bank robbery were Messrs Gilmore and Rabbitte?” In 1992, the two were to the forefront of the split from the Workers’ Party to create the short-lived Democratic Left which subsequently merged into the Labour Party in 1999.
But when have they ever been called to account for their Alma Mater’s murky past? Given all the present-day respectability, maybe it would be considered gauche to ask at the next EU presidency news conference…