Remember the summer of 1969


A chara, – Fifty years ago this summer I had just completed my Leaving Certificate and I was becoming radicalised by national and international events. Particularly, I was influenced by the Civil Rights movements in both Northern Ireland and the United States, the Sorbonne students’ revolt in Paris, car workers leading a general strike in France and earlier, in 1968, the “Czech Spring” being cruelly put down by invading Soviet tanks.

The Fianna Fáil government called a general election and Labour party members’ confidence and expectations rose. The party slogan “The seventies will be socialist” struck a chord.

A Labour Party church-gate national collection was organised and I travelled to a rural church in Co Waterford with my Dad and his friend seeking support. Our bright election posters were proudly displayed, emblazoned with the election slogan and the Starry Plough flag.

For the duration of two Masses, looks of amusement and intimidating glares were commonplace from the passing congregation.

A solitary figure approached, dressed in a cloth cap and a long gaberdine coat, tied at the waist by a piece of string. He placed a sixpence in my collection box. It was the only donation that day. Obviously rural Ireland wasn’t ready for socialism!

The Labour party received its biggest ever vote but through poor vote management it lost seats.

A wag rewrote the election slogan to “The socialists will be seventy”.

I’m four years from that birthday.

I still “take” The Irish Times daily, and I continue to vote for the Left. – Is mise,