Seamus Costello

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Seamus Costello (Irish: Séamus Mac Coisdealbha, 1939–1977) was a leader of Official Sinn Féin and the Official Irish Republican Army and latterly of the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

He argued for a combination of socialist politics on economic issues and traditional "physical force" Irish republicanism. He is best remembered for the founding of the IRSP and the INLA. He was a victim of the feud with his former comrades in the Official IRA.


Early life: IRA Border Campaign

Born into a middle class family in Bray, County Wicklow, he was educated at Christian Brothers College, Monkstown. He left school at 15 and became a mechanic and later car salesman in Dublin.

At the age of 16 he joined Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army. Within a year, he was commanding an active service unit of the IRA in south County Londonderry during the Border Campaign, where his leadership skills and his burning down of the courthouse in Magherafelt earned him the nickname of "the Boy General".[1] The most publicised actions of his unit included the destruction of bridges and the burning of Magherafelt courthouse.[2] He was arrested in Glencree, County Wicklow, in 1957 and sentenced to six months in Mountjoy Prison. On his release, he was immediately interned in the Curragh prison camp for two years.[3]

He spent his time in prison studying. He was particularly inspired by his studies of the Vietnamese struggle.[4] He became a member of the escape committee which engineered the successful escapes of Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and Dáithí Ó Conaill, among others. Costello would later refer to this time as his "university days".

Political activism

After his release, Costello worked to rebuild the Republican Movement, beginning by building a local base of support in County Wicklow as Sinn Féin's local organiser. Costello strongly supported the movement's left-wing orientation of these years - especially its emphasis on grassroots political activism. He helped found a strong tenants' association in Bray, and also became involved with the credit union movement and various farmers' organisations. During this period, he found time to marry a Tipperary woman, Maeliosa, who also became active in the Republican Movement. Costello stood for election to the Bray Urban District Council and the Wicklow county council in 1966 and was successful.

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