Ahern pays tribute to Spanish Civil War hero

Irish News, 19th May 2006

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern today paid tribute to Spanish Civil War veteran Michael O'Riordan, who has died.

Mr O'Riordan, founder of the Communist Party of Ireland and one of the last Irish men to have fought against General Franco's fascist forces, died in Dublin aged 88.

Mr Ahern said he was one of many men from the International Brigades who had been honoured for joining the fight for democracy.

"[Mr O'Riordan was] one of those who were willing to make an enormous sacrifice in the fight for democracy in Spain in the 1930s," he said.

"He was a fearless fighter for the Labour movement throughout his life."

The Taoiseach also conveyed his sympathies to Mr O'Riordan's son Manus and daughter Brenda.

Former Labour Party leader Ruairi Quinn described him as a hero.

"Michael O'Riordan stood out against the tide of Irish conservatism and clerical domination that kept Ireland backward and isolated in the 1930s, '40s and '50s," he said.

"He remained loyal to his Labour roots and socialist values throughout his life.

"Although a committed member of the Communist Party he urged generations of young Irish socialists to join the Labour Party and to work democratically for a prosperous Ireland - free and fair, compassionate and tolerant.

"The fact that such sentiments are now taken as normal is a measure of the change brought about by the courage of the likes of O'Riordan."

He was one of only two remaining Irishmen who fought against General Franco's fascist armies during the Spanish Civil War. Serving in the International Brigades in the Connolly Column he was shot and injured while fighting and was honoured by the Spanish government for his commitment.

On his return to Ireland in the 1940s, Mr O'Riordan was interned by Eamonn de Valera's government and is best known as the founder of the Communist Party of Ireland.

He published many writings and memoirs and a book on the Irish republican fighters in the Spanish Civil War and also dozens of articles through the CPI.

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said O'Riordan was an inspiration to all those who knew him and will be sadly missed.

"He will be remembered best by many for joining the International Brigade and risking his life in the fight against fascism in Spain," Mr Adams said.

"He lost close comrades there and worked diligently to ensure that the story of their struggle is widely known today and their memory cherished. As a leader of the Communist Party of Ireland he continued to fight against injustice and for social change until very late in his life.

"On behalf of Sinn Féin, I want to extend condolences to Michael's family and friends."

More obituaries about Mick and interviews with him