Joe Deasy: Irish Marxist

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The following clip is from an interview with Joe Deasy, who was born in 1922 and who met and worked with Jim Larkin Snr in the 1940s. Both were Labour councillors on Dublin Corporation. Joe would later leave the Labour party and join the Irish Workers League, which was a communist organisation, the antecedent to today’s Communist Party of Ireland.

The interview, which was videotaped, was conducted with Mick O’Reilly and myself, and will hopefully form the basis of a programme on Joe Deasy which we’re planning to make in the new year.

In 1963, Joe wrote The Fiery Cross: The Story of Jim Larkin, which was republished in 2004 by the Irish Labour History Society. Francis Devine and Niamh Puirséil wrote an introduction to the pamphlet, giving an outline of Joe Deasy’s life, a highly edited version of which is below:

“Joseph Deasy was born on 12 July 1922 in the Ranch opposite Inchicore Works, Dublin. His father, Richard was was an active member of the Labour party, standing as a candidate in Dublin South West. Joe began working life as a railway clerk in 1941, an occupation that he claimed strengthened his socialist convictions. Outside work, Deasy had joined Conradh na Gaeilge and, in 1941, the New Theatre Group commencing a life-long love of theatre. In April, 1945, Deasy wrote and produced Under the Banner Connolly in the Dining Hall, Inchicore Works, his first writing experience.Not long after joining the Labour Party, Joe was elected chair and then Secretary, Inchicore Branch. Esther McGregor, a veteran communist who was then active in the Labour Party, proposed that Joe run in the 1945 local election. He was elected and became, aged twenty-two, the youngest councillor in the country. Joe campaigned for social housing, improvements for TB patients in Crooksling Sanatorium and in support of the Dublin Trades Council Lower Prices Campaign.

Although Joe supported coalition in 1948, believing that the country needed a change of government, nevertheless it was not long before he became disillusioned with the Labour Party’s performance in government. He did not put himself forward for the 1950 local elections and joined the Irish Workers’ League in 1951, a decision that was painful difficult and demanding of personal courage.

Cold War anti-communism meant that Deasy was precluded from being active in both his trade union and his community. He was forced out of his postion as the Railway Clerks Association’s representative on the Dublin Trades Council, while the Ballyfermot and Inchicore Co-op grocery shop, where Joe and some Irish Workers’ League comrades were central figures, became the target of a Church orchestrated boycott. They were denounced from the local pulpits, and clerical pressure ultimately forced the closure of the shop.

In 1975 Joe was among those who resigned from the Communist Party of Ireland after tensions within the party over Czechoslovakia and the 1968 soviet invasion finally came to a head. Joe became active in the subsequently formed Irish Marxist Society, continuing political discussion and considering which was the best path to follow. Joe’s path was a return to the Labour Party in 1977 and action at branch and constituency level, a path he is still stoically treading.”

Here, Joe is talking about the Inchicore and Ballyfermot Co-Ops, which were set up in the late 1940s, before being forced to close in 1952 due to pressure from the Catholic Church.

Evanne Kilmurray, ‘Joe Deasy: the evolution of an Irish Marxist, 1941-1950’, Saothar 13 (1988), pp.112-119
Joe Deasy, ‘Fiery Cross: The Story of Jim Larkin’, Studies in Irish Labour History 9 (2004)

Note: All photos taken from ‘Fiery Cross’, Studies in Irish Labour History 9 (2004)

[Ballyfermot & Inchicore Co-op Society, some members of the management committee. Joe Deasy is back row, second from right. His closest friend, Tim Graham, is beside him, first on the right.]


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