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Some famous Irish communists

Andy Barr


Andrew Barr was born in 1913 in Cluan Place, off the Mountpottinger Road, Belfast. On leaving school he became an apprentice sheetmetalworker in Musgrave’s on the Albert Bridge Road and following his apprenticeship began work in 1938 in Short’s aircraft factory. He was elected a shop steward in 1942, the same year in which he joined the CPI, convenor of shop stewards in 1946, chairman of the district committee of his union in 1947, and a member of the Executive Committee in 1948. He became district secretary in 1953 and national president in 1964. He was elected to the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for the first time in 1954.
    In 1949 he was sacked from Short’s for holding a meeting of union members during working hours. All eight senior shop stewards were also sacked for standing on a platform to defend him. As a result, ten thousand workers in Short’s five factories stopped work. All were reinstated.
    The trade union movement in Ireland was divided between 1945 and 1959, with two separate federations, the original Irish Trades Union Congress and the Congress of Irish Unions. Having been a member of the Northern Ireland Committee of the ITUC from 1954, Andy Barr played a prominent role in bringing together the two bodies in 1959 as the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In 1974 he was elected president of the ICTU for the first time. This position in practice rotated among Executive members, but anti-communism meant that from 1956 Andy Barr was repeatedly excluded until 1974, when he could no longer be ignored.
    In the same year the “Ulster Workers’ Council” organised a so-called strike, in fact an intimidation by loyalist thugs to prevent workers going to work, as a means of bringing about the collapse of the Northern Executive. Andy Barr, together with Jimmy Graham, convened a meeting of shop stewards for the Port of Belfast at which he proposed organising a march into the shipyard, and inviting Len Murray, general secretary of the TUC, to attend. Murray accepted and, with Barr, led some hundreds of workers in a gesture of defiance of the lock-out.
    Following his retirement he remained active in campaigns for pensioners’ rights, for opposition to war, for support for liberation struggles, and for solidarity with Cuba, as well as in his continuing membership of the Communist Party.


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