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Some famous Irish communists

Neil Goold


Hamilton Neil Goold-Verschoyle was a member of a prominent Anglo-Irish family in Co. Donegal. He was educated at a private school in England and at the University of London, graduating in both arts and science. In 1929 he travelled to the Soviet Union. About 1931 he joined the Revolutionary Workers’ Group in Dublin (forerunner of the CPI), but in 1932 he emigrated to the Soviet Union, where he married and had a son. He applied for membership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but it was suggested to him that he should return to Ireland instead and join the CPI; he may also have been under some pressure to do so because of the imminence of war. He did so and was active in the party from 1937.
    In 1940 he was arrested for lying down in the street in support of unemployed demonstrations and was then sent to the Curragh internment camp.
    He set up a study circle in the camp, where he taught French, German, and Russian, as well as socialism. Within two years the section of the IRA internees who had come to regard themselves as communists or socialists and who called themselves the Connolly Group had grown to more than sixty, their study circle supplied with books by Johnny Nolan of New Books (now Connolly Books). Among those who participated was Michael O’Riordan, who had been a member of the 15th International Brigade in Spain and subsequently became general secretary of the CPI. Though Goold was almost universally liked, the IRA leadership was irritated by his lectures on communism and also by the fact that he encouraged internees to apply for parole and to join the British forces so as to take part in the war against German fascism. In 1942 the officer in charge of one of the two IRA groups in the camp, Pearse Kelly, called for Goold’s removal and wrote to the Bishop of Kildare, Thomas Keogh, with a request that he use his influence with the government. Within three days, Goold was transferred to Mountjoy Prison, Dublin.
    On his release from prison at the end of 1943 he was critical of the CPI for having suspended its activities in the South in 1941 and urging its members to join the Labour Party. He attempted to organise rural workers and farm labourers into a union, and in 1946 he attempted to set up his own People’s College on lands he had inherited at Dunkineely, Co. Donegal.
    Having moved to England, in the early 1950s Goold was active in the Connolly Association in London, where he adopted a dogmatic position and came into conflict with C. Desmond Greaves. In 1956 he published a pamphlet, The Twentieth Congress and After: A Vindication of J. V. Stalin and His Policy, in which he attacked the “de-Stalinisation” speeches at the twentieth congress of the CPSU and the reformism of Khrushchev. He also wrote and published October Events in Hungary (1956) and Trotskyism: Its Roots and Fruits (1957).
    In 1957 he re-established contact with his wife and son, and in 1959 he returned to the Soviet Union, where he worked as a translator, notably of the plays of Bertolt Brecht. He had previously sold his remaining share in the family estate and made a gift of a large sum of money to the Irish party, which enabled it to buy its first head office building in Dublin. He died in Moscow in July 1987.


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