Irish President to attend IBMT Annual General Meeting

Post date: 14/10/2016

The President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, will open the Annual General Meeting of the IBMT in Dublin on Saturday (15 October 2016).


Some 275 Irish men and women joined the International Brigades and associated medical services during the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Seventy-five of them were killed in the fight that tried to stop General Franco’s fascist-backed rebels from toppling the elected government of the Spanish Republic. 


The IBMT’s meeting will be held at Liberty Hall (pictured), headquarters of SIPTU and the site of a memorial plaque to the Irish volunteers that was unveiled in May 1991 in the presence of several surviving International Brigade veterans.


It will be preceded by a wreath-laying ceremony at the James Connolly monument at Eden Quay. On the Saturday night a fundraising evening of music, poetry and song will take place in the Teachers' Club.


The IBMT’s Ireland Secretary, Manus O’Riordan, who is the son of Irish International Brigader Michael O’Riordan, said he was delighted that President Higgins had agreed to formally open the proceedings of the AGM. 


‘Ireland should rightly be proud of these volunteers who fought against fascism and for social justice,’ he declared. ‘Acknowledgement of their sacrifice and inspirational role in the war in Spain was a long time coming, but in recent years it has been heartening to see greater public awareness and official recognition of the Irish volunteers. The President’s presence at our meeting serves to underline this point.’


The song ’Viva la Quince Brigada’ by Christy Moore, a patron of the IBMT, had done much to bring the story of Ireland’s ‘Connolly Column’ in the Spanish Civil War to greater public attention, O’Riordan added.


The last Irish volunteer, ambulance driver Paddy Cochrane, died in March 2011, aged 98. The last Irish combatant, Bob Doyle, died in January 2009, aged 93. Most Irish volunteers fought in the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade, though many were also enlisted in the brigade's Abraham Lincoln Battalion of mainly US volunteers.


The London-based IBMT keeps alive the memory and spirit of the 2,500 volunteers from Britain and Ireland who fought fascism and defended democracy in the Spanish Civil War, of whom 526 died in Spain.


IBMT Secretary Jim Jump, also the son of a Brigader, said he hoped the AGM would provide an opportunity for Dubliners to celebrate this important part of their heritage. 


He added: ‘It is fitting that we are holding our 2016 AGM in Dublin, in this centenary year of the Easter Rising, which spawned a generation of Irish Republicans and socialists who played a proud role in Spain’s anti-fascist war.’


Only one veteran of the 15th International Brigade is known still to be alive: Stan Hilton, a former merchant seaman from Newhaven, in Sussex, England. He will be 99 in December, and lives in a nursing home in Melbourne, Australia, where he emigrated in the 1960s.


Posted on 14 October 2016.

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