Friday, 23 January 2009

Bob Doyle, Rest in Peace

I was deeply saddened to hear this afternoon of the passing of Bob Doyle, the last remaining Irish member of the International Brigades who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

I was honoured to meet Bob Doyle when he spoke two years ago when he spoke at Labour Youth's Connolly Festival in the Matt Merrigan Hall at the ATGWU on Abbey Street. It was the largest public meeting Labour Youth had organised in memory - more than 200 people crowded into the room to hear Bob's account of his part in the 'comradeship of heroes' that fought Fascism in defence of the democratically-elected Republic. No one was disappointed. Bob's speech was moving beyond words, an account deeply personal and yet defiantly political.

My great honour that night was to be asked to play the meeting out by singing 'Viva La Quinte Brigada,' Christy Moore's classic song which celebrates the Irishmen of the Connolly Column who braved the Francoists in Spain and the far-right hegemony in Ireland, often alienating families and communities as a result. Bob was visibly moved at the rendition and his kind words and firm handshake after the song are what I remember best.

It is probably the greatest honour I have ever had in politics and Bob, his writings, his words and his politics will always be part of my political journey.

Adelante, comrade.

Bob was 92 and died at his home in London.

You can read more about Bob's life and tributes paid to him at the Irish Times and Indymedia.