Morning Star, October 16, 2007

Marking the Brigades

Ann Douglas reports on a memorial to those who died defending Spain

International Brigade veteran Bob Doyle unveiled a memorial in Belfast on Saturday dedicated to the people of that city who joined the XV International Brigade to fight fascism in Spain 1936-38 and to those who supported the Spanish working people and their republic.

The unveiling coincided with the seventh annual general meeting of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, which was held in Belfast this year.

A large crowd, including trust members from across Britain, joined the International Brigades Commemoration Committee and its supporters from the Belfast labour movement to hear speeches by Mr Doyle, the last surviving Irish International Brigader, and Amaya Ruiz, the daughter of Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria.

Mr Doyle brought the anti-fascist struggle up to date with a scathing and comprehensive condemnation of the crimes of imperialism, including the war and occupation of Iraq and privatisation of public services.

Ms Ruiz, who was accompanied by her daughter Lola, said that being present at the unveiling was "one of the happiest days of my life."

She added that she had been very moved by the events and paid tribute to the brave men of the International Brigades. Ms Ruiz spoke of her mother's struggle, as the daughter and wife of miners, to bring up her family in poverty.

She said that La Pasionaria was "a simple person. The people still remember her and say: 'What a shame that we don't have another Dolores'?" Kevin Doherty of the International Brigades Commemoration Committee spoke of the importance of the memorial, not only as a commemoration as part of the working-class history of Belfast but for its role in the coming together of both traditions.

Many events had been held to raise money for the memorial, including concerts and an International Women's Day event. Other speakers at the unveiling included Minister for Social Development Margaret Ritchie.

The memorial, which is a sculpture of a brigader's head sporting the republican cap, will stand in its permanent site in gardens close to St Ann's Cathedral.

The three-day meeting began the previous day, with the official opening of an exhibition on the Spanish civil war in the city's Linen Library.

After the unveiling, delegates attended a civic reception and public meeting, overseen by International Brigade Memorial Trust president and International Brigades veteran Jack Jones.

More reports/images of the Memorial weekend