Tony Donaghey, London

Tony Donaghey has been a member of the Connolly Association since the 1960s. He is former President of the Railway, Marine and Transport Union (RMT), Britain.

I first met Desmond Greaves during the mid-1960’s. I worked for British Railways in London and was a member of the NUR (now RMT) trade union and was advised to read the “Irish Democrat” by two Irish railway workers with whom I was friendly, Jim Prendergast and Joe O’Connor. 

Shortly afterwards I joined the Connolly Association and attended the North London branch meetings, which were then held at the Association’s office in 283 Grays Inn Road. I became a seller of the monthly “Irish Democrat”,  usually in the Camden Town area, and used be accompanied sometimes by Desmond Greaves himself, who was the paper’s long-time Editor, and on other occasions by Jane Tate or Charlie Cunningham or whoever else might be available, for a team of paper sellers always consisted of two. 

When I went selling with the editor I always remember how fast he walked between the Irish pubs where we sold the paper.  We often ended the paper run in Parkway (I think the pub’s name was “The Eagle”). Desmond’s favourite ale was a bottle of Worthington Green Shield.  He would chat about whatever came to mind and I gained much knowledge accordingly, as he was a scientist, historian, journalist, poet, musician and political activist, who committed his life to the struggle for Irish independence, national democracy , sovereignty and the defence of the Nation State. 

He was an anti-imperialist, and his authorship of the “Life and Times of James Connolly” and “Liam Mellows and the Irish Revolution” has been a major contribution to the solving of “England’s problem in Ireland”, as I refer to it.

I remember Greaves’s activity during the Northern Ireland Troubles, when he and Sean Redmond and others led the Connolly Association in campaigns, meetings and lobbies of the Westminster Parliament, where Desmond drafted a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland in proper parliamentary language. It was proposed there in 1972 by Labour MP Arthur Latham, but regrettably the Tories were in office and it did not get the support it deserved. This was because so many in the democratic and labour movement in Britain could not grasp that “their” Government was responsible for the Northern Ireland and should act to reform it. Nevertheless, the continued patient campaigning and leadership of Desmond Greaves and the Connolly Association was an important influence on the 1967/9 Northern Civil Rights Campaign, whose key principles were revived thirty years later in the Good Friday Agreement as a step towards an eventual united Ireland. 

Desmond Greaves was an early opponent of the EEC (European Economic Community), now the European Union, and the “Irish Democrat” was one of the first papers to oppose this development on basic democratic and internationalist grounds.  

I am personally profoundly grateful for knowing and sharing the dedication and commitment to humanity, internationalism, peace and socialism of this remarkable and good English person, who had Ireland at the forefront of his mind for most of his life. I hope that his dedication will be recognised by future historians.

(March 2021)