Exclusive: Croydon education chief quits over terrorist past
by Ian Austen
DRAMATIC PAST: Maria Gatland has sensationally quit after her IRA past was revealed
Croydon's education chief has dramatically quit after she admitted to close associations with the IRA Provisional in the 1970s.
It is understood Maria Gatland was sentenced to death after revealing her role in the Irish terror organisation in a kiss and tell book published in the 1970s.
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This morning, she admitted she was the author of To Take Arms: My Year with the IRA Provisional in 1972 under her maiden name, Maria McGuire, and she resigned as the council's cabinet member for education.
She has also been suspended from the council's Conservative group pending an investigation.
Speaking to the Advertiser, she said: "I have resigned. I am not prepared to say anything more at this stage."
Council leader, Mike Fisher said Cllr Gatland had offered her resignation at her meeting with him and he had decided immediately to suspend her from the group while an investigation was carried out.
Croydon Council this afternoon confirmed the news.
A spokesman said: "The council has been advised that Maria Gatland has resigned as cabinet member for children, young people and learners.
"This follows emerging news of her connection to the Provisional IRA – which has come as a complete shock to Croydon.
"Officers understand she has been urged to resign from the council. "It is also understood that urgent steps are being taken to replace her as cabinet member.
"The council wants to make it emphatically clear that it had no prior knowledge of her background."
Cllr Gatland's book was described in a review in Time magazine in 1973 as a kiss and tell story about her relationships with the IRA leadership, written after she fell out with the Provisionals.
During her time with the IRA splinter group, she went on an arms-buying trip, which ended in disaster when their cover was blown in Amsterdam.
After becoming disillusioned, she fled to England with a British journalist in 1972, dumpintg her automatic pistol into an airport trash can en route.
It is understood she was court martialled by the IRA in her absence and sentenced to death.
Cllr Gatland's confession has apparently come as a complete surprise to the ruling Conservatives leadership who are admitting to not having a clue about her background until this morning.
Cryptic clues to Cllr Gatland's past were given at Monday's council meeting by Dr Peter Latham, one of the leaders of the trade union backed, Save Our Schools campaign.
Following up a written question on academies answered by Cllr Gatland, Dr Latham referred to her as Cllr McGuire.
Apologising quickly and suggesting he was a bit mixed up he said he was a devotee of Irish history and had been reading a book about a year with the provisional IRA which "you Cllr Gatland might have heard about as your are Irish."