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BBC Dublin correspondent Edel McAllister:
"Mac Stiofain was a leading figure in the IRA in the early 1970s"
 real 28k

Friday, 18 May, 2001, 13:57 GMT 14:57 UK
Former IRA leader dies
Sean MacStiofain was Provisional IRA chief of staff in 1970
Sean MacStiofain was Provisional IRA chief of staff in 1970
A republican who led the Provisional IRA at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, has died in hospital after a stroke.

Sean Mac Stiofain, who was born John Edward Drayton Stephenson in London in 1928, became chief of staff of the Provisional IRA in the 1970s.

He was a key player in the early days of the IRA and was instrumental in its split into the Official IRA and the more militant Provisionals.

In 1953, the then IRA leader Cathal Goulding and MacStiofain were sentenced to eight years in jail after they led an IRA unit which raided an Essex school for arms.

In 1972 he, Martin McGuinness, Gerry Adams and other leading republicans, travelled to England to meet the then Northern Ireland Secretary William Whitelaw.

The republican delegation were demanding a British political and military withdrawal from Northern Ireland.

Bombing campaign

However, later in 1972, MacStiofain ordered an intensification of the IRA campaign which peaked on 21 July.

That date became known as Bloody Friday, after the IRA detonated 22 bombs in Belfast.

Rescue workers on Bloody Friday
Rescue workers in the aftermath of Bloody Friday
Nine people were killed in the attacks and more than 100 injured.

Later that year, MacStiofain was convicted in the Irish Republic of IRA membership and jailed for six months.

The IRA made an unsuccessful attempt to free him when he was taken to a Dublin hospital while on hunger strike in the Curragh prison.

He ended his hunger strike in January 1973 on direction from the IRA leadership. It is believed he ceased to be the Provisionals' chief of staff at this time.

Resigned from Sinn Fein

He resigned from Provisional Sinn Fein in 1981 after a disagreement about party strategy at the party's Ard Fheis.

The Bloody Sunday Tribunal, which is examining the shooting of 13 civilians by paratroopers in Londonderry in 1972, had been considering asking MacStiofain to give evidence.

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams expressed his condolences to MacStiofain's widow Maire and his family and friends.

He added: "Sean MacStiofain will be missed by republicans everywhere.

"He played a leading role throughout his life in the struggle for social justice and a united Ireland."

MacStiofain died in hospital in Navan, County Meath.

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18 May 01 | Northern Ireland
Sean MacStiofain: Londoner who led the IRA
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