Like many others I was shocked and saddened to hear this morning of the sudden death of Manus O’Riordan yesterday. I had been in touch with him by email late on Saturday and I have learned since that he had returned to his usual family, social, political and cultural activities, following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, and was planning
visits to the USA and Cuba with his children and grandchildren next year.
Manus was the Ireland Secretary of the International Brigade Memorial Trust and had formerly worked as Head of Research for Ireland’s biggest Trade Union SITPU, successor to the ITGWU founded by James Connolly and James Larkin. He was the son of Michael O’Riordan, who had as a teenager fought and was wounded with the
International Brigade (Connolly Column) in Spain, who founded and was General Secretary of the Irish Communist Party. Father and son were committed Internationalists and their fidelity to Ireland was not compromised by their wider vision.
I met Manus only once, in 2016 on the 80th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street in London, where working class Irish fought shoulder-to-shoulder with their Jewish neighbours and English workers to prevent Mosley’s blackshirted fascists from barging their way through the neighbourhood. The Metropolitan Police was deployed to
help the Fascists and the most wealthy Jews, more comfortably housed were not much in evidence to help their poorer brethren (like the bourgeoisie of all creeds and nations).
The East End Irish were paying off a debt. Years earlier, when striking Irish dockers were in want, their Jewish neighbours, themselves near paupers, fed the Irish children.
I tell this story because Jeremy Corbyn was at the rally and praised by Manus O’Riordan, as was 101-year-old Max Levitas, the Dublin-born Communist Jew and East End legend who had taken part in the 1936 Cable Street Battle and many more.
Max was one of three brothers born in Dublin and transferred to London, all of them prominent communists. As children in Dublin, with their playmate Chaim Herzog (later President of Israel) nearly burnt down the Rathmines Synagogue, when Herzog’s father was Chief Rabbi in Ireland.Known as the Sinn Fein Rabbi, he was a firm friend of Eamon de Valera and kept a safe house for him when the Brits were on his tail.
I didn’t see Keir Starmer at the commemoration. Nor Tony Blair nor Peter Mandelson.
Anyhow Manus O’Riordan had an encyclopaedic knowledge of 20th century Irish History and he wrote well-informed, rationally argued commentary, and was generous and fair to those whose opinions he disagreed with. His pieces in the Irish Political Review are always superb. Many excellent letters taking issue with favourites of THE IRISH TIMES have been spiked by THE IRISH TIMES, a paper under the secretive guidance of an oath-bound Trust, set up by the late and crooked fixer for Harold Wilson.
As it happens historic photographs from the last 150 years have been “colourised” and one taken in 1934 showed Fine Gael stalwarts in Dublin’s Mansion House giving the “Roman” or Fascist /Nazi salute.
I contacted Manus suggesting that without seeing the black-and-white original, I would not accept that a gent in a dress suit was W,T,Cosgrave.
Manus produced a black-and-white print from the same occasion. The man in the formal suit wore a mayoral chain. He was Alfie Byrne and he was to the left of Fine Gael President General Eoin O’Duffy in his paramilitary uniform.
Peeping over his shoulder was Fine Gael’s Vice-President W.T.Cosgrave.
O’Duffy led a Blueshirt unit to Spain to support his fellow Fascist, Franco. His unit returned to Ireland, with more warriors than it left with, without getting to grips with the Republicans.
Manus was an educator to the last.
Ar Dheis De go raibh a Anam Dilis.