July 2012        

Nora Harkin

Nora Harkin, born Nora McGinley, who died on 7 June, aged 101, was known for her bright and lively personality, for her warm heart and sensitivity, for her generosity and hospitality. She communicated her courage and determination to all who knew her, always with good humour. During her long life she demonstrated her love of humanity and her commitment to socialism, human rights, and democracy.
     From her childhood in Co. Donegal she was involved in the independence struggle, carrying messages to Peadar O’Donnell. On coming to Dublin as a young woman in the early 1930s she became involved in the Republican Congress, organised by Peadar O’Donnell and Frank Ryan.
     At that time she met Charlie Harkin, whom she later married, and formed a lifelong friendship with Bobbie Walsh, later married to Frank Edwards. Together, Nora and Bobbie ran the Spanish Aid Committee (chaired by John Swift) during the Spanish Anti-Fascist War, organising support for the Spanish Republic. They had to face the intense reactionary atmosphere of the time, organised by the Catholic Church. They also undertook liaison with the families of the Irish volunteers in the International Brigade.
     Nora later helped establish the Ireland-USSR Society in 1966, and served on its committee for many years. Her garden was the scene of many social occasions associated with it; indeed the Lodge, Monkstown, holds many memories of great social activity: visitors arguing politics, telling stories, and singing songs of liberation in various languages.
     On her eightieth birthday the USSR honoured her with a presentation made to her by then ambassador to Ireland, Gennadi Uranov.
     She also made a huge contribution to the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement. When the Defence and Aid Fund for political prisoners was banned Nora was one of those who, with Louise Asmal, organised the sending of material support to the prisoners and their families.
     In the mid-sixties Nora was one of the first volunteer workers in the newly formed Irish Family Planning Association, working as a receptionist in its clinic.
     She remained a close friend of Peadar O’Donnell. After the death of his wife, Lil, and Nora’s husband, Charlie, Peadar came to live in Nora’s home, where he ended his days.
     Nora is survived by her sons Michael and Niall, grandsons Niall, Miki, and Damien, seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild.
     Irish communists salute her memory and mark her contribution to the continuing struggle for national independence, international solidarity, and socialism.

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