Date: Fri, 25 Jun 1999 07:56:38 -0400

Death of Irishman who fought Franco
Joe Humphreys (Irish Times)
21 Jun 99

The funeral will take place in Waterford today of Mr Peter O'Connor, who was one of the last surviving Irish veterans who fought against Franco's army in the 1936-39 Spanish Civil War.

Mr O'Connor, who died on Saturday at Waterford Regional Hospital aged 87, was a member of the Connolly Column of the International Brigade in the war against fascism.

Of 10 Waterford men who fought for the cause, he was the last survivor.

Mr O'Connor joined the brigade in December 1936 and fought in the battles of Jarama and Brunete, resisting the fascist advance on Madrid. As the only Irish fighter not killed or wounded, he was ordered home in July 1937 to generate more public awareness about what was happening in Spain, to counteract the version of events being presented by the Catholic Church, which supported Franco's army.

Speaking in Spain in 1994, he said: "I truly believe that if fascism had been defeated in Spain and if France, Britain and America had supported the legally elected government at the time, then the second World War would probably never have happened."

Mr O'Connor grew up in a republican working-class family in Waterford and joined both the Fianna and the post-Civil War IRA. In 1933, he participated in the re-founding of the Communist Party of Ireland, of which he remained a member until his death.

Responding to the collapse of the Soviet Union, he wrote: "Nothing that has happened in recent years has deflected me from my belief in James Connolly's teaching of the necessity for the re-conquest of Ireland by its people and that Ireland will never be truly free until our working people are free and in possession of the wealth and the wealth- producing processes of their country."

Mr O'Connor served as a Labour member of Waterford Corporation in the 1950s. Earlier this month, he attended the election count which saw his grandnephew, Mr Seamus Ryan, elected to the local authority for the same party.

The funeral Mass takes place at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at 10.30 a.m., after which Mr O'Connor's remains will be taken to Ballybricken cemetery for burial.

Mr Michael a Ríordain, a former chairman of the Communist Party of Ireland, who also fought in the International Brigade, will deliver a graveside oration.

Of the 140 Irishmen who fought in the brigade, only three remain alive.

Mr O'Connor is survived by his son Emmet, daughter Teena, and grandchildren Mark, Brian, Christine, Niamh, Laura and Deaglán. His wife Biddy died in February 1988.


Document URL:
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:41:41 EDT