February 2016        

Rebel without a pause

Jimmy Doran

The centenary of Bob Doyle’s birth occurs on 12 February. He was born into poverty in North King Street, Dublin, and the eventual break-up of his family led to a life of foster care and orphanages, where he suffered hunger and regular beatings.
     He emerged as a teenager to the misery and unemployment of 1930s Dublin. He shared a flat with a veteran of the War of Independence, Kit Conway. He followed Kit into the ranks of the IRA and was involved in many street battles with Eoin O’Duffy’s fascist Blueshirts (shortly to merge with Fine Gael, of which O’Duffy became the first leader), during one of which Bob lost the sight in his left eye.
     Like Conway, he became disillusioned with the direction being taken by the IRA, feeling that they were concentrating all their efforts on reuniting Ireland without the vision of the republic. He felt there was no benefit to the Irish people from this if the same gombeen-capitalist class were still running the state; and so he joined the Communist Party of Ireland and then became involved in the Republican Congress.
     With the broadening of his political views he decided to go to fight in defence of the Spanish Republic against Franco’s fascists and their German and Italian allies. After several attempts to reach Spain he eventually arrived in late 1937 and went straight into action on the Aragón front, his training in the IRA serving him well. He saw heavy action against incredible odds in the battle of Belchite and was eventually captured, along with Frank Ryan and others, by Italian fascists, and remained a prisoner for eleven months. During his incarceration he suffered regular and brutal torture at the hands of Italian, Spanish and German fascists.
     He was released in a prisoner swap in early 1939. He made his way back to London, where he met and married his Spanish wife, Lola. He joined the merchant navy and served with it till the end of the Second World War. After the war he became active again in politics with the Communist Party and the Connolly Association.
     He got a job in the printing industry and became a leading member of the trade union SOGAT and led many campaigns and strikes to improve pay and conditions for workers.
     Bob continued to fight against injustice throughout his life. He was always willing to lend a helping hand and share his experience with young activists and never tired of travelling near and far to commemorate his fallen comrades of the International Brigades.
     Bob was a very brave, principled and courageous communist who suffered extreme hardships of all kinds throughout his long life but remained willing and determined in his fight for socialism and a better world right to the end.

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