Personal tribute to May Mac Giolla by Workers’ Party President Michael Donnelly

Mick Donnelly

Workers’ Party President Michael Donnelly

I first met May many years ago back in the early 1970’s through her husband Tomás , when I was then a delegate from the North West Region of the Party representing Derry & Strabane at an the Ard Fheis of the Party, and feeling at the time quite overawed by someone as important as Tomás not only speaking to me but introducing me to his wife as well! Almost immediately, however, May’s simple, down-to-earth openness and her instinctive friendliness made me feel immediately at ease. An ease I experienced the many times I met her afterwards over the years and decades that followed.  And always, always that same friendly openness, that disarming frankness remained as an integral part of her overall personality, an inseparable part of who she was.

For me May was the epitome of a good person. Ever loyal to her friends and Comrades, ever loyal to the Party to which she dedicated all of her adult life and above all else ever loyal and true to the interests of the working people of Dublin and all of Ireland with whom and on whose behalf and interests she toiled so endlessly.

And when she did show flashes of anger it was usually for good reason – particularly when talking about the evils of sectarianism in the North or the continuous attempts at suppressing class politics by the vested interests of business and church in both parts of Ireland. May did have enormous patience for most things and people, but none whatsoever for the enemies who sought to sow the seeds of disunity among the Irish working class. In that respect May was then and remained a steadfast and unshakeable opponent of all who preached the gospel of sectarian hate or who attacked class politics.

Just as the first time I met May was during an Ard Fheis  in the early 70’s, the final time I met her was on the Saturday of last year’s Ard Fheis when we had lunch together in the Communication Workers’ Union Hall  in Dublin. As ready as ever to make comments on all things political, still loyal and true to the Party, and still offering advice and encouragement, May was still May -despite her advancing years, despite her ill-health and still the eternal optimist for all that the future would hold and bring. She still spoke of class politics, still retained the desire, the commitment and the enthusiasm for the daily struggles that it entailed.

May laying a wreath at the grave of Wolfe Tone in Bodenstown

I didn’t know then that I’d not see her again. And that saddens me enormously. The things unsaid the thoughts unspoken. No longer able to tell her of how I admired her so much for her unselfishness, her kindness, and how much I really envied her indomitable spirit of resistance.  

May Mac Giolla may now be dead, but her spirit, her indomitable will to go on will still go on. And it will continue to infuse all of her Comrades and friends. And if we can capture but a fragment of her enormous spirit of determination, her desire to go on, her refusal to say No! – we may yet achieve what she dreamed of during all of her many years of struggle.

To her sister Carmel, to her extended family and friends, I offer my sincerest condolences and utmost sympathy. Yet despite the sadness of her death, let us all remember that hers was a life well-lived, a cause well-chosen and I feel so privileged to say that I knew her as Comrade and a friend.