New Worker International News - 26/10/2007 - by Dolly Shaer

Belfast celebrates International Brigades

DURING the week-end of October 12th to 14th in Belfast a number of events took place to celebrate a part of Irish working class history.

Two or three years ago there was a committee set up to take action to erect a memorial to those Irish men and women who went to fight another war, in Spain, against fascism.

Many of those who went had had first hand experience of fighting for their own freedom from the British occupiers of their own land. I remember being told of this by Lynda Walker, a member of the committee and one of the mainstays of this event, while in Spain a few years ago at a major commemoration event.

They named their committee the International Brigade Commemoration Committee (IBCC). The committee organised fund raising events across both communities, involving the trade unions, an International Women’s Day event, concerts, production of saleable items and many individual donations.

The climax of this activity was the unveiling of a magnificent sculpture of the head of a brigader wearing a Republican cap in bronze and about life size. (And in my opinion the best memorial that I have seen.)

There were three veteran Brigaders present, Bob Doyle, the last Irish Brigader, Jack Jones former general secretary of the Transport and General Workers’ Union and Jack Edwards.

The unveiling took place in Writers’ Square in Belfast. The man who performed the unveiling was veteran fighter and Brigader Bob Doyle.

Bob gave an address that pointed out that the fight against fascism is still not finished, and still needed the working class to continue the fight against it.

He also pointed out that the attack on the working class still goes on at home, with the attacks on health, education and unemployment – and abroad with the wars such as that in Iraq and other places.

Bob was introduced by the secretary of the IBCC, Kevin Doherty, who also introduced the Irish Spanish war historian Kevin Crossey, who told of the history of the events that motivated those who went.

There was also a little elderly woman introduced, Amaya Ruez Ibuarruri, who is the daughter of that internationally honoured woman La Pasionaria, Dolores Ibuarruri.

La Pasionaria was the woman who spoke to the International Brigaders who when they had their last march through Barcelona telling them “you are history you are legend”.

Amaya told of how, when she went to unveil streets and places named after her mother, people told her: “We need another La Pasionaria today”.

The previous evening there was a gathering at the Linen Hall Library where there is an exhibition taking place on the Spanish Civil War. There is a collection of documents memorabilia and letters. It is an excellent exhibition.

Saturday afternoon there was a public meeting and civic reception at the Grosvenor Hall. The Lord Mayor welcomed all. There were songs from two choirs from local schools. Also present were Patricia McKeown, ICTU President and Unison north of Ireland regional secretary.

Jack Jones, the honorary life president of the International Brigade Memorial Trust, chaired the meeting. After the meeting the IBMT convened for their AGM.

The day finished with a social and entertainment. Among the entertainers were Brenda O’Riordan who played the Irish harp and Tommy Sands.

Further reports on the Belfast Memorial and the IBMT AGM