Tributes pour in for 'revolutionary socialist' and sincere leader
Published 05/02/2010 | 05:00
Warm tributes were paid to the late Tomas Mac Giolla following his death early yesterday afternoon after a long illness.
Mr Mac Giolla (86), a TD for 10 years, a lord mayor of Dublin and president of the Workers' Party, is credited with helping to move Republicans from violence to a peaceful path.
A fierce opponent of sectarianism, he was an early advocate of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland in the 1960s.
Mr Mac Giolla held fast to his principles with official Sinn Fein and opposed the breakaway Provisional IRA/Sinn Fein and IRSP/INLA through murderous feuds in the 1970s.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen led the tributes to Mr Mac Giolla, describing him as "a politician of sincerity and strong convictions with a long record of service to the people of Dublin".
"He saw inclusive politics as being essential to this country's progress," Mr Cowen said.
"He was a strong supporter of peace on this island and he was a strong advocate of the civil rights agenda in Northern Ireland."
Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore said he had learned much from him during his time in the Workers' Party.
"While we took different paths in recent years," said Mr Gilmore, "I always retained great admiration and respect for Tomas.
"He was a champion of the poor and the disadvantaged and he fought for their interests with great distinction during his 10 years as a TD for Dublin West."
The current Workers' Party president, Michael Finnegan, who was his director of elections, paid a personal tribute.
"Tomas Mac Giolla was a greatly underestimated figure in Irish politics who played a major role in the struggle for civil rights and democracy in Northern Ireland and for people's rights in Ireland and internationally."
Green Party leader John Gormley said: "I've always believed that, whether you agreed with Tomas or not, he was always a man of strong political convictions and he worked in politics to defend the interests of working-class people."
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and the party's Dail leader, Caoimhghin O Caolain, both expressed their sympathies with the Mac Giolla family.
Mr O Caolain said: "It is widely acknowledged that Tomas Mac Giolla acted according to his beliefs and, in latter years, his party and Sinn Fein occasionally shared platforms on issues of common concern such as Irish neutrality."
SIPTU general president Jack O'Connor said he was deeply saddened to hear of the death of the former Workers' Party president. "He was a fearless champion of the interests of working people and the oppressed everywhere," Mr O'Connor said.
"He was a dedicated revolutionary socialist who pursued the objectives of social justice and equality."
Mr Mac Giolla, the nephew of the Irish Parliamentary Party MP TP Gill, was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary, in 1925.
After getting a degree in commerce from UCD in 1947, he became an accountant until he became a full-time representative of the Workers' Party in 1979. He joined Sinn Fein in 1950 and became president in 1962. He was elected to Dublin City Council in 1979 and to the Dail as a Workers' Party TD in 1982 .
In 1993, the year after Democratic Left broke away from the Workers' Party, he was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin.
A lifelong socialist, Mr Mac Giolla remained active as member of the party's Ard Comhairle from his retirement until his death yesterday.
Mr Mac Giolla had a busy sense of humour and many interests beyond politics. He is survived by his wife May, his sister Evelyn and his nephews and nieces.