Spirit of Mother Jones Award given to UK miner activist

Dave Hopper honoured posthumously in Cork for campaigning for justice in coalfields

A British trade union leader who campaigned for justice for miners after the closure of the pits in the Durham and Northumberland coalfields has been honoured posthumously with this year’s Spirit of Mother Jones Award.

General Secretary of the Durham Miners Association, Dave Hopper had campaigned tirelessly for the rights of miners following the closure of the pits in the 1980s and was a passionate champion of working people, according to Ger O'Mahony of the Cork Mother Jones Festival Committee.

“Dave Hopper was a fourth generation miner and since the closure of the pits and collieries, he continued to fight for justice and continued to seek compensation benefits for work related injuries endured by his colleagues,” said Mr O’Mahony.

“Not only that but he also led the transformation of the Durham Miners Association into a community based organisation and it had the organisational resources to showcase working people’s solidarity through the growth of the inspirational Durham Miners’ Gala each July.”


Mr O'Mahony explained that the Durham Miners' Gala had become the largest trade union gathering in Europe and this year's event held on July 9th, which was addressed by Mr Hopper, was attended by over 150,000 people - one of the largest ever in the 132 year history of the event.

However just a week later, Mr Hopper - who had attended the past two Spirit of Mother Jones Festivals in Cork and was due to attend this year's festival to present a film on the miners' strike - died suddenly and his funeral took place in Durham this weekend.

Jim Nolan of the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival extended the sympathy of the committee to Mr Hopper's family and described the late trade union leader as "a great friend to us here in the Cork Mother Jones Festival".

"Dave Hopper was a legend in the trade union movement and he loved coming to Shandon for the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival and he loved the people of Shandon and he made a great contribution to the festivals here," he said.

"In 2015, he delivered the annual Cork Mother Jones Lecture along with American actress and writer, Kaiulani Lee and he will be sadly missed by the many friends he made in Shandon and is a huge loss to the labour movement."

Mr Nolan pointed out that in his recent message at the 2016 Durham Miners’ Gala, Mr Hopper had been his usual forthright and honest self when he spoke about the outcome of the Brexit vote and its possible impact on working class communities.

"Britain has voted to leave the European Union and we face uncertain times. After much soul searching, I had decided to vote to remain as I thought that the rights of working people would be better safeguarded within the European Union.

"However one thing we can be sure, whether in or out, the powers that be will try to make the working class pay for the continuing economic crisis," said Mr Hopper as he shared a platform at the Durham Miners Gala with Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Mr Hopper is the fourth recipient of the Spirit of Mother Jones Award - named after the Cork born US trade union leader who was once described as the most dangerous woman in American and whose rallying cry was “Pray for the dead but fight like hell for the living.”

Previous recipients include Margaret Aspinall and Sue Roberts of the Hilllsborough Family Support group, human rights lawyer, Gareth Peirce who represented Gerry Conlon and the Guildford Four and campaigner for the homeless, Fr Peter McVerry.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times