Tribute to Friend and Comrade Mhaire Bhean Mhic Giolla

by Sean Garland, National Treasurer The Workers’ Party of Ireland

Thursday 29th March 2018

Comrades May Mac Giolla, Tomas Mac Giolla and Sean Garland

Carmel, Danny, Comrades, Friends and Members of Maire Bhean’s extended family.

On this sad occasion we will pay a grateful tribute to the memory of our dear friend and comrade Maire Bhean Mhic Giolla. 

I first met Maire Bhean, when she was May McLoughlin, in the mid-fifties. She had spent a short time in the United States and returned to Ireland where she was soon active in the then Sinn Féin organisation. She was a leading member of the Sean Russell Cumann which met in Mountjoy Square in what were very difficult times for Republican activists who, frankly, were locked in a time warp. For May, despite the difficulties, she was always optimistic and active in trying to build a viable organisation. Over the following decades she and Tomas, whom she had married, were an integral part in the task of building the Workers’ Party.

May was immensely proud of her father who had fought in the Easter Rising in the ranks of the Irish Citizen Army. Tone and Connolly stood as beacons of Freedom and Justice for May and her family. She hated the deserters and malcontents who sought to divert the Party from its objective in 1992 and who became another tame so called ‘left party’, who as predicted finished up in the Labour Party, where there too they did immense damage.

May’s letter of reference from the IRA when she lived in New York.

Maire Bhean played a significant role in the fifties and sixties in helping to build a strong support group for political prisoners. She was tireless in organising visits to prisoners and raising funds when necessary to help prisoners families to overcome the loss of loved ones  who were imprisoned by a corrupt and rotten system. Many comrades had the privilege of working with Maire Bhean on the problems confronting political prisoners and their families.

I mention a few in particular our friends and comrades who have also left us, but who like May played a notable part in our struggle, Comrades Malachy McGurran, Jim ‘Solo’ Sullivan, Comrades Peter Kane, Sean O’Cionnaith, Cathal Goulding and of course Comrade Tomas Mac Giolla who was always there to advise and assist May when she needed him, and of course the advice and assistance was always reciprocated.

Again in more recent times she was active in exposing those sectarian assassins, Nationalist and Loyalist, who sought to plunge our country into a sectarian civil war. It was a most difficult and dangerous period in our history when we lost some great comrades and friends to these assassins and their loss still stays with us. May often spoke about some of these comrades whom she knew and admired, Comrade Sean Fox, Liam McMillen, Eamon Kerr, Robbie Elliman and many others who we all remember with pride and honour.

Always committed to any effort to secure an end to sectarian killings she was active with Tomas in lending support to the Peace Train initiative which the Reverend Chris Hudson launched and which made a significant impact with public opinion.      

May laying the wreath at the Workers’ Party Dublin Region 100th anniversary Easter Commemoration in Arbour Hill in April 2016.

As I mentioned, Maire Bhean treasured her father’s memory, therefore it is of no surprise that she had no time for those who today would have us turn away from our history and discard those features and emblems such as the historic Starry Plough which was borne so bravely by her father and his comrades in the 1916 Rising.

That her coffin is covered with the Starry Plough and the Tricolour is our tribute to a fond and generous friend whose memory will remain with us for a long, long time.

We received a very kind phone call from Bill Gill of Carrigaline, County Cork, a member of Tomas’ family. He asked us to express his sympathy to May’s family and friends. We are grateful for his thoughts and wishes.