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2 February 2015 Edition

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Mick Timothy – Revolutionary editor

Remembering the Past

Mick increased the paper size from 12 to 16 pages. He wrote his own satirical and irreverent column ‘Burke’s at the Back’, eagerly awaited by readers every week, challenging the hypocrisy of the political establishment in London, Belfast and Dublin.

THIRTY YEARS AGO, Irish republicans were shocked at the untimely and early death of the editor of An Phoblacht/Republican News, Mick Timothy, at the age of 37. 

A dynamic editor, he helped to transform the republican newspaper and also played an important role in the development of Sinn Féin. Mick Timothy was born into an Irish family in Manchester in 1948. His grandparents were born in Ireland and the family had connections in several Irish counties. They were proud of their Irish identity, a pride communicated to Mick and reflected in his political commitment. 

Educated at St Bede’s College, Manchester, Mick proved to be a brilliant student and went on to take an Economics degree at Manchester University. 

He joined the Republican Movement in Manchester in the early 1970s. He was active in Sinn Féin in Manchester, speaking at public meetings, lectures and debates. 

One anecdote that Mick himself told concerned the Manchester Martyrs Commemoration in the 1970s. He was drilling the republican colour party in a public park. The group, responding to commands in Irish and marching up and down military-style, prompted a passerby to call the police. A patrol arrived to investigate. “What's going on?” asked a copper. Mick responded, in his heavy Manchester accent, that they were a band. “Where’s your instruments?” countered the puzzled policeman, to which Mick replied: “We’re a marching band – we're practising marching first.” 

With the war and British repression intensifying in the Six Counties, and an IRA bombing campaign under way, it was an extremely difficult atmosphere for Irish republican activists in England, especially, those like Mick Timothy who had a public profile. In January 1975, he left Manchester to escape imminent arrest. He came to Dublin where, the following August, he married Alice Sillery, whose republican family had hosted Mick on his arrival in Dublin. 

Mick began his association with An Phoblacht in December 1975 in administration and accounting. He became Manager when An Phoblacht and the Belfast paper Republican News amalgamated in 1979. Mick moved to the editorial side in 1980. 

In 1981, during the epic H-Block Hunger Strike, sales of the paper increased greatly at a time when political censorship created a renewed demand for news and views from a republican point of view. The paper’s staff responded with a greatly improved publication, making huge demands on those, including Mick, working long hours in the days before computerisation, when articles were often handwritten, then typeset with text and photos laid out by hand before page screens were driven to the printer. 

When Danny Morrison stepped down as Editor in 1982, Mick Timothy took over, continuing and expanding the improvements in the paper. It was lively, topical and more professionally presented than ever before. Mick increased the paper size from 12 to 16 pages. He wrote his own satirical and irreverent column ‘Burke’s at the Back’, eagerly awaited by readers every week, challenging the hypocrisy of the political establishment in London, Belfast and Dublin.

Mick Timothy was co-opted to the Sinn Féin Ard Chomhairle in 1983 and made a significant contribution. This was in addition to his work on the paper and his law studies at the King’s Inns, as well as raising a young family with his wife, Alice. He died suddenly on 26 January 1985. 

Speaking at his graveside in Palmerstown Cemetery, County Dublin, on 30 January, Danny Morrison said:

“His parting is a serious blow to our organisation in the 26 Counties since he was a key figure in the research and planning committees of Sinn Féin. In the paper, he developed a style of revolutionary journalism which AP/RN is going to be hard put to but which it has to maintain.” 

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1
Ireland
 

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