Death of Veteran Irish Anti-Fascist
Irish Times - 21st June 1999 - Death of Irishman who fought Franco
By Joe Humphreys
The funeral will take place in Waterford today of Mr Peter O'Connor, who was one
of the last surviving Irish veterans who fought against Franco's army in the
1936-39 Spanish Civil War. Mr O'Connor, who died on Saturday at Waterford Regional
Hospital aged 87, was a member of the Connolly Column of the International Brigade
in the war against fascism. Of 10 Waterford men who fought for the cause, he
was the last survivor.
Mr O'Connor joined the brigade in December 1936 and fought in the battles of
Jarama and Brunete, resisting the fascist advance on Madrid. As the only Irish
fighter not killed or wounded, he was ordered home in July 1937 to generate
more public awareness about what was happening in Spain, to counteract the version
of events being presented by the Catholic Church, which supported Franco's army.
Speaking in Spain in 1994, he said: "I truly believe that if fascism had been
defeated in Spain and if France, Britain and America had supported the legally
elected government at the time, then the second World War would probably never
Mr O'Connor grew up in a republican working-class family in Waterford and joined
both the Fianna and the post-Civil War IRA. In 1933, he participated in the
re-founding of the Communist Party of Ireland, of which he remained a member
until his death. Responding to the collapse of the Soviet Union, he wrote: "Nothing
that has happened in recent years has deflected me from my belief in James Connolly's
teaching of the necessity for the re-conquest of Ireland by its people and that
Ireland will never be truly free until our working people are free and in possession
of the wealth and the wealth-producing processes of their country."
Mr O'Connor served as a Labour member of Waterford Corporation in the 1950s.
Earlier this month, he attended the election count which saw his grandnephew,
Mr Seamus Ryan, elected to the local authority for the same party. The funeral
Mass takes place at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at 10.30 a.m., after which
Mr O'Connor's remains will be taken to Ballybricken cemetery for burial. Mr
Michael O Riordan, a former chairman of the Communist Party of Ireland, who
also fought in the International Brigade, will deliver a graveside oration.
Of the 140 Irishmen who fought in the Brigade, only three remain alive. Mr O'Connor is survived by his son Emmet, daughter Teena, and grandchildren Mark, Brian, Christine, Niamh, Laura and Deaglan. His wife Biddy died in February 1988.
Biography of Peter O'Connor and information on Waterford men who fought in the
There's two more obituaries for Peter: One from the CPI and and this one from Saothar, the Labour History journal.
A longer article about him also appears on the site.