Irish communist and veteran of Spanish Civil War dies at 88

Liam Reid, Political Reporter - Irish Times, 19th May 2006

The death has taken place of Michael O'Riordan, the chairman of the Communist Party of Ireland and one of the last Irish veterans of the Spanish Civil War.

Mr Riordan (88) fought on the republican side in the Spanish Civil War and was a leading figure in the Irish socialist and communist movement in Ireland for the past 65 years.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern led tributes to Mr O'Riordan yesterday, describing him as "a fearless fighter for the labour movement throughout his life".

Former leader of the Labour Party Ruairí Quinn said Mr O'Riordan "stood out against the tide of Irish conservatism and clerical domination that kept Ireland backward and isolated in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s".

"He remained loyal to his labour roots and socialist values," he added.

Eugene McCarthy, general secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland, said Mr O'Riordan remained "as committed to socialism in his final years as he did as a young man".Trade Union activist Des Bonass, a friend, said he was "a great part of Irish and Spanish political history".

The International Brigades Commemoration Committee said Mr O'Riordan received a citation for "particularly outstanding bravery" during the Spanish Civil Wear and was "a leading figure in the fight for social justice" in Ireland. Michael O'Riordan: life and times

Mr O'Riordan, who died in Dublin yesterday, was predeceased by his wife Kay Keohane, who died in 1990. He is survived by his two children, Brenda and Manus (the head of research at Siptu).

  • 1917: Born in Cork.
  • 1932: Leaves school and joins the Fianna, the youth wing of the IRA. Subsequently joins the IRA itself.
  • 1935: Joins the Irish Communist Party.
  • 1936: At the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (see photograph left), he volunteers for the Fifteenth International Brigade to fight against General Franco's loyalist forces, which had the support of the German and Italian fascist governments.
  • 1938: Sees action on the Ebro front in Catalonia, and is wounded outside Gandesa in the battle for Hill 481.
  • 1939: Returns to Ireland but is interned on the outbreak of the second World War because of his communist and IRA links.
  • 1943: Released from the Curragh and returns to Cork where he becomes a bus conductor and stands in a number of elections.
  • 1947: Moves to Dublin and helps to found the Irish Workers Party.
  • 1961: Stands unsuccessfully for the Dáil in Dublin South West and is denounced by the Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuaid who suggests that it would be a mortal sin to vote for Mr O'Riordan.
  • 1970: Is centrally involved in the reconstituting of the Communist Party of Ireland and becomes its general secretary.
  • 1976: Travels to Berlin to chair a session at the international conference of communist and workers parties.
  • 1984: Retires as general secretary of the CPI and becomes its national chairman.
  • 2001: Addresses Labour Party's conference on his role in the Spanish Civil War.
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