Tomás Mac Giolla: Republican, Socialist, Leader, Comrade

From The Workers’ Party:

Tomás Mac Giolla (1924 – 2010)

The death has occurred early this afternoon of Tomás Mac Giolla, former President of the Workers Party, TD for Dublin West (1982-1992) and Lord Mayor of Dublin (1993/94). He was 86 and is survived by his wife May (née McLoughlin) and his sister Evelyn and his nephews and nieces.

Mr. MacGiolla passed away in Beaumont Hospital, Dublin early this afternoon. He had been ill for some time and had been in hospital for the last week.

Tomás Mac Giolla was born in to a farming family at Nenagh, Co. Tipperary on January 25th, 1924. He was a nephew of the Irish Parliamentary Party MP, T.P. Gill. He was educated at St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co. Clare and in University College Dublin where he completed a degree in Commerce. He subsequently worked as an accountant with the ESB from 1947 until he became a full time public representative for the Workers Party in the late 1970s.

Mr. Mac Giolla joined Sinn Féin around 1950 and stood unsuccessfully for his first election for Sinn Féin in North Tipperary in the 1961 general election. He was elected President of Sinn Féin in 1962 which was the same year in which the late Cathal Goulding became Chief of Staff of the IRA. Together they played a pivotal role in transforming the republican movement away from nationalist armed struggle towards socialism and into what would eventually become the Workers’ Party.

He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1979 and was Workers Party TD for Dublin West from 1982 to 1992. In 1993 Tomás Mac Giolla became Lord Mayor of Dublin. He remained active in politics after his retirement and was a member of the Ard Comhairle of the Workers Party until his death.

Paying tribute to Mr. Mac Giolla this afternoon, the current Workers Party President Michael Finnegan, who is Mr. Mac Giolla’s former director of elections in Dublin West, said that Tomás Mac Giolla was a greatly underestimated figure in Irish politics who played a major role in the struggle for civil rights and democracy in Northern Ireland and for people’s rights throughout Ireland and internationally.

Issued 4th February 2010

Tomás MacGiolla was, in every sense, a giant of a man. As anyone who met him knew, he was a man with a tremendous passion and zest for life, something he shared with May, his wife of so many years. They also shared a deep and strong commitment to the politics of Tone and Connolly, and were bound together by life-long activism. Tomás’ love for an teanga dúchais helped shape his life almost as much as his commitment to republicanism. Tomás was a man of tremendous vision. His was a pivotal role in the transformation of the Republican Movement in the course of the 1960s and 1970s that culminated in the adoption of the simple title of The Workers’ Party in 1982. Together with Cathal Goulding, he led the move away from sterile and narrow militarism towards a party of and for the working class. His was a strong and insistent voice that Republicans must make themselves and their struggle relevant to the people of Ireland. His was a powerful voice against sectarianism. He saw that the real enemy of the plain people of Ireland was not just partition but the rotten and oppressive political and economic system north and south that gave free rein to corruption and bigotry, that destroyed communities in cities as well as the countryside, that exiled the young, and that divided the people of Ireland. Without an end to economic exploitation, he told Republicans, there can be no freedom. To quote from his speech to the Ard Fheis of January 1970

Our objective is the re-conquest of Ireland from the Ground Landlords, the river barons, the speculators, the cartels and the monopolies and the struggle against them will now be intensified. If needs be, we must be prepared to win back our country farm by farm, river by river, mine by mine, shop by shop, and factory by factory.

Tomás was a tireless and fearless fighter for the Irish working class, no more so than in Dáil Éireann. It was Mac Giolla’s interventions in the Dáil that initiated the process that brought the coruption of the political elite into the light of day. But parliamentary politics was only ever one small part of his activism, only ever one front in his struggle for socialism. This is not the time for a full account of his career. But to me Tomás Mac Giolla was to me an inspiration. To hear Mac Giolla take hold of the microphone and talk about the unity of Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter was to hear the authentic voice of republicanism. When he spoke about Iraq or Serbia, you understood clearly what internationalism meant. And when he spoke about the oppression inherent in the capitalist system, you were reminded of Swift’s saevo indignatio or Guerva’s statement that the revolutionary was motivated by the love of mankind. It brought back memories of why you became a socialist in the first place. Vivacious, passionate, human. This is the Tomás Mac Giolla I will remember. A visionary, a socialist, a Republican: a true leader and a giant of the Irish Left. This is what he was.

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6 Responses to “Tomás Mac Giolla: Republican, Socialist, Leader, Comrade”

  1. Urban_Underclass Says:

    I didn’t know he had died until I saw this blog, a true socialist hero of mine, Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

    Rory

  2. "A greatly underestimated figure" - People of NI - Says:

    […] I simply did not know him well enough to give him the sort of grand send off he deserves (anyhow, Garibaldy fulfils this role much more effectively than I could hope to do).No doubt everyone will have their own specific memory of Tomás Mac Giolla and thoughts on him. If […]

  3. Garibaldy Says:

    Rory,

    Thanks for the message, and for the post on your own blog. You are spot on. A true socialist hero.

  4. Urban_Underclass Says:

    Garibaldy,

    You are welcome, I remember Mr. MacGiolla when I was a young child doing party political broadcasts for Sinn Fein the Worker’s Party.

    I was intrigued to know what this party was and why they were never mentioned in our household. My first exposure to socialism. I grew up in a Fainna Fail house, my second cousin was an FF TD and minister for state.

    While there was constant putting down of Labour and FG (it was a given that everything Jack and then fucking Charlie did was inspired by God), this Worker’s Party not seen as relevant in the ’70s. By the late ’80s I got to vote, and I voted Worker’s Party from the get go.

    Rory

  5. Uí Mhaine Says:

    Tomás MacGiolla – Thinker, Socialist, Internationalist, but above all an intellectual republican.

    He will be deeply, sorely and sadly missed by all whom knew him.

    remember him with pride.

    Uí Mhaine.

  6. bobyowens Says:

    tomas mac giolla was a friend of mine and proud to be his friend he was a man pf the utmost princples

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