September 2013        

Billy Ennis

At the end of August, Billy Ennis, a long-standing member of the CPI, died after a long battle with cancer.
     Billy was what one could call a quintessential working-class Dub, born in the north inner city, in a tenement in Benburb Street, in 1939, a place racked with poverty—born into a family that experienced the hardship endured by many working-class families.
     Billy worked in Guinness’s brewery and then on the docks, where he was an active shop steward in the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, winning and defending improved pay and conditions for dock workers in his section.
     Billy was a unique individual in many ways. Most striking of all, he was a self-taught artist. He completed a series of paintings depicting life in Ballymun, where he lived for a time. He also painted scenes from his beloved city of Dublin, scenes depicting the life of its people, from Moore Street fruit-sellers to dock workers. His pen sketches of such people as Connolly, Larkin and Peadar O’Donnell showed great craftsmanship.
     Billy was not only a painter but was also a lover of literature and of films. He had an incredible knowledge of films: who made them, who acted in them, the politics of the directors, producers, actors. He understood the politics of the cinema, its great potential to be an educator of the masses, to be a light for opening people’s minds to the possibility of a better world, a world without exploitation and abuse, which led him to become one of the founders of the Progressive Film Club.
     He understood how the forces of imperialism have used and continue to use films as a means of distorting reality, to sow confusion, apathy, and fear. He understood that films were one of the main weapons used in the Cold War against the Soviet Union, against the communist “bogeyman” and all the left.
     He never wavered in his belief in the cause of socialism, even when the Red Flag was taken down over Moscow. He remained a loyal friend of revolutionary Cuba to his last days.
     Billy was truly a working-class socialist: a real working-class hero. His politics were born out of his own experience and that of the working people of this city that he loved and the history of our people. He always strove to follow in the footsteps of his great hero, James Connolly.
     Though Billy has left our ranks, he has left his mark on us all. He will be remembered for his comradeship, for his ideas about art and politics, his love of place, and his skill as an artist, for his passion and his complete opposition to the system that oppresses and wreaks havoc on the lives of billions of poor and working people around the globe.
     The Communist Party of Ireland extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Billy Ennis. To his sisters—June, Babs, and Noeleen—and to the rest of Billy’s extended family we offer our sincere condolences.

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