January 2013        

Joe Deasy

1922–2013


Joe Deasy was born on 12 July 1922 opposite the railway works in Inchicore, Dublin. His father was an active Labour and union man and influenced Joe’s subsequent career.
     He began his working life as a railway clerk in 1941 and in those poverty-stricken war years saw the need for strong trade unionism and for spreading socialist ideas. He held elected positions in what is now the TSSA and Dublin Trades Council.
     Active in the Labour Party, Joe was elected a councillor in 1945 and, at the age of twenty-two, was the youngest one in the country. He served on Dublin City Council with Big Jim Larkin and has written of this memorable association as they raised issues of slum clearance and health services.
     The Labour Party’s participation in the inter-party government of 1948 with Fine Gael and Clann na Poblachta disillusioned many in the labour movement. Joe joined the newly formed Irish Workers’ League (a forerunner of the CPI) in 1951. In the Cold War hysteria of those days this was a difficult and demanding choice. He was blacklisted from all union positions and, with the rest of its members, faced hostility at public meetings and when selling papers. An infamous episode was the closing of the Ballyfermot grocery co-operative stores by clerical boycotts and abuse. Joe and some IWL comrades had been on the management committee.
     Both a thinker and a writer, Joe wrote Fiery Cross: The Story of Jim Larkin (1963) and James Connolly: His Life and Teachings (1966), before labour movement studies became fashionable.
     Joe returned to the Labour Party in 1977 but retained his commitment to the socialist ideas of his youth. This also allowed him to return to trade union activism in his branch and in the trades council. On retirement he allowed more time to elected positions in the Labour History Society and writing for its journal, Saothar.
     Joe enjoyed life and had a repertoire of labour songs and enjoyed singing them. His other passion was the theatre, which stemmed from his own involvement as a youngster in the New Theatre as actor and budding writer. A complete man.
[TR]

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