Conscientious and diligent trade unionist
SEÁN REDMOND: Seán Redmond, who has died aged 76, was a former national secretary of the Impact trade union and was previously general secretary of the Connolly Association in Britain.
The association sought to expose the misdeeds of the unionist government in Northern Ireland, and its campaign was based on the concept that the movement to end partition in Ireland and achieve Irish unity needed allies in the British labour movement and the support of progressive public opinion in that country.
Redmond became the association’s general secretary in the early 1960s and for 10 years strove to highlight the deplorable civil liberties situation in the North.
He represented the association on the executives of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now Liberty) and the Movement for Colonial Freedom (later Liberation) and played a key role in persuading those bodies, which were very influential in British labour circles at the time, to adopt the issue of discrimination against Northern nationalists and Catholics.
Known and respected
He worked closely with the late Desmond Greaves, editor of the association’s monthly paper the Irish Democrat, and edited some issues of the paper in Greaves’s absence.
He became widely known and respected in the Irish community in Britain and in British labour circles and organised numerous lobbies of MPs at the House of Commons on discrimination issues in the North.
Because of his work Redmond may be considered as one the progenitors of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement which led the way in ending unionist hegemony in the North.
His efforts were instrumental in impelling the Harold Wilson-led Labour government that took office in 1964 to pressurise Terence O’Neill’s government to end discriminatory practices affecting the nationalist population of the North.
Further pressure came from within the North itself when the civil rights movement emerged in the late 1960s.
Redmond was born in Dublin in 1936. He was the son of Seán and May Redmond. He and his brother Tom emigrated to London in 1956 where their parents also lived for some years.
Redmond returned to Dublin in 1973 and became an organiser for the Local Government and Public Services Union (LGPSU). He later transferred to the Irish Municipal Employees Trade Union, of which he became general secretary. Following the merger with the LGPSU to form the Irish Municipal, Public and Civil Trade Union (Impact) he was appointed national secretary.
Redmond was a conscientious and hard-working trade union official respected for his political shrewdness, good sense and political and industrial experience. These qualities stood him in good stead in his work on behalf of members, including firefighters, refuse workers and maintenance fitters.
He remained focused on the national question and helped establish the group Trade Unionists for Irish Unity and Independence and also was associated with the Reclaim the Spirit of Easter 1916 Committee.
He was a founder member of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and active member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement. He was also a former member of the Labour Party administrative council.
He had a keen interest in history and his book The Irish Municipal Employees Trade Union 1883-1983 was published to mark the union’s centenary. Eugene McEldowney in this newspaper described it as exciting and interesting, providing a “vivid picture of the conditions prevalent in working-class Dublin in the ‘rare oul times’ of the union’s foundation”.
More recently he had been working on a study of successive solidarity movements with the Irish cause in Britain, which he had virtually completed before he fell ill.
His wife Susan, son Seán Ellery, daughter-in-law Jessica and granddaughter Hannah Saoirse survive him.