President leads tributes to veteran trade unionist Manus O’Riordan

Former Siptu official helped commemorate Irish volunteers who fought fascism in Spain

President Michael D Higgins has led the tributes to veteran trade unionist and Irish secretary of the International Brigade Memorial Trust (IBMT), Manus O’Riordan, who has died aged 72.

“It is with great sadness that I have heard of the death of Manus O’Riordan. It is a sadness that will be shared by so many of those who have worked for a more equal and inclusive society, and trade unionists in particular,” said Mr Higgins.

“It was a privilege to have known him and his father, Mick O’Riordan, as friends and campaigners for so many causes, and particularly for their testimony to the bravery of those who served in the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War.”

The President said Mr O’Riordan had in recent times provided an invaluable service in offering an accurate account of Ireland in the 1930s, chronicling both the violent campaigns against trade unionists and highlighting the institutions and individuals who supported fascism.


He also recalled Mr O’Riordan’s many years of service to the trade union movement, working as a researcher with Siptu before he spoke of how honoured he was to meet Mr O’Riordan when he officially opened the 2016 agm of the IBMT in Dublin.

“It was a privilege to be received by Manus at the opening of the Spanish Civil War memorial in Liberty Hall in 2016, in honour of the 2,500 volunteers from Ireland and Britain who fought fascism in the Spanish Civil War,” he said.

“And I recall with fondness our many conversations over the years, including recently, and his infectious enthusiasm, energy and commitment. Sabina and I send our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues,” he added.

Meanwhile the IBMT, which is based in London, paid tribute to Mr O'Riordan as they recalled how he had honoured his late father, Michael O'Riordan, and the many other Irish International Brigade volunteers who fought and died in Spain.

“We mourn the loss of IBMT Ireland Secretary, Manus O’Riordan at the age of 72, a proud Dubliner, trade unionist, son of International Brigadier, Michael O’Riordan and prolific writer and speaker about the International Brigade - Salud camarada - no passaran,” said the IBMT in a message.

A regular contributor to the Irish Political Review where he wrote on Irish republicanism, Mr O’Riordan also gave addresses on the Irish involvement in the Spanish Civil War at various commemorations around the country to honour the Irish men who fought against fascism.

Speaking in Cork in 2017 at a lecture to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of his father, who went to Spain as a 20 year old, Mr O’Riordan recalled how his father felt honour bound to go to Spain in 1938 even though he felt the Spanish Republic was likely to fall to the fascists.

"He was due to go in 1937, but he got appendicitis, so he went the following year, but before he went he actually said, 'I already knew the war was lost' – because of the amount of aid that Hitler and Mussolini were giving Franco and the lack of support for the republic from Britain and France.

"But he still felt honour-bound having volunteered to go, so he went out without any expectation of the war being won by any action he took – he thought perhaps the republic could hold out a little bit longer and there might be some change if something dramatic happened elsewhere in Europe. "

A former Head of the Research Department at Siptu, Mr O'Riordan, who lived in Glasnevin on Dublin's northside, is survived by his daughter, Jess; his sons, Neil and Luke; his grandchildren, Amaia, Rory, Caleb and Eli; his sister Brenda; and his partner, Nancy Wallach. He was predeceased by his wife, Annette.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times