From Socialist Voice, July 2005

Kit Conway remembered

On Saturday 11 June, in the County Tipperary village of Burncourt, a memorial plaque was unveiled to Kit Conway, who died on 12 February 1937 in the Battle of Jarama, fighting the fascists in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War.
    The plaque was erected by a local committee, which included Councillor Mattie McGrath, cathaoirleach of South Tipperary County Council, and Seán Kelly of the ATGWU. A large crowd attended the unveiling on a warm summer evening.
    Kit Conway, an orphan, was reared in Clogheen Poorhouse and at the age of fourteen went to work for a local farmer. He became an active member of the Third Tipperary Brigade in the War of Independence and fought with distinction, and also joined the Seán Hogan Flying Column. He saw action against British forces throughout the south Tipperary area from 1919 to 1921.
    He opposed the Treaty and stood with the Republican and left forces who opposed partition. He was active in the Building Workers’ Branch of the ITGWU, the union founded and built by James Connolly.
    His political understanding of the nature and course of Irish and international politics continued to develop, and eventually he found himself, along with other left republicans, joining the Revolutionary Workers’ Groups, which were then transformed into the Communist Party of Ireland.
    He joined the 15th International Brigade of the Spanish army and became a company commander and an inspiring leader of the Irishmen under his command. (They were all men, though some women were involved here in Ireland in the defence of Spain and in rallying support for the struggle there.)
    They went to fight in the Spanish Anti-Fascist War of 1936–39, to stand with the Spanish people in their fight for democracy and to uphold the proud internationalist and democratic traditions that many of those who struggled for our own national freedom gave allegiance to and which the Irish Blueshirt fascists had besmirched by travelling to Spain to fight with the fascist forces led by Franco.
    In attendance at the unveiling ceremony were the last two surviving members of the Irish unit, the Connolly Column: Michael O’Riordan and Bob Doyle.
    It is important that we keep alive the memory of the heroism of these courageous Irish anti-fascists. The victors always write history to suit their class needs; workers need to remember our own heroes: it shows that we have a history that is separate from that of the boss class and shaped by our own experiences.
    In a moving moment in the ceremony, Seve Montero, a member of the Spanish Communist Party and of the Spanish organisation Friends of the International Brigades, sprinkled soil from the spot where Kit Conway was killed at Jarama at the foot of the plaque, to mingle with the soil of Tipperary—a little piece of Spain to remain for ever in Ireland.
    Kit Conway died as he had lived: on his feet, facing the enemy with courage and conviction. There are many more pages of workers’ history to be written, many new battles to be faced, many challenges to be overcome. Kit Conway’s courage should be an inspiration to a new generation of the Irish working class.

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