25 August 2005 Edition

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Fógra báis - Paul O'Brien - an appreciation



I couldn't believe the news. Paul O Brien the raconteur, balladeer, poet, community activist and fighter for workers' rights had passed away in Tallaght Hospital. His daughter Ellen had rang me on Monday morning to tell me that he had passed away in the middle of the night. I was actually putting together magazines and reading material on my way into visit him when I got the call.

A member of the Markievicz Sinn Féin Cumann in Tallaght, Paul was in ill health for many years as a result of a traffic accident and incompetence in the hospital that led to the puncturing of his lung. He endured his illness with good nature but was extremely frustrated that he couldn't be more politically active.

Chairperson of the Kiltalown Estate Management Committee he threw his energies into the betterment of his community and was active right up to his death.

His politics were inclusive. He believed passionately in giving people equality of opportunity and sharing the wealth. A world where one half starved while the others rich and fat lived off the exploited had to be changed. In Paul's view, there were the haves and the have nots, quite simply he believed in taking from the haves and distributing to the have-nots. He was extremely proud of his father, a union man who had been active in the great 1913 Lockout.

Paul's politics and view of the world could be best summed up by the phrase: "There is nothing too good for the working class." We are not designed for poverty he often said, enjoy life to the full while you're here and he did.

He loved his family and was very proud of their achievements; he loved women and was loved back according to himself and of course was fond of drink, good company, good food, books, poetry and song.

He often talked of the great folk singer and songwriter Ewan McColl with whom he performed and who taught himsed by all its contributors.

Paul will be missed. We have lost a friend, a comrade, a father, brother, a grandfather a man who was truly loved. He would want us to remember him in song and story, enjoying the craic. With Paul's passing, a little bit of Dublin has died but are all the better for having known him. I will be raising my glass to you today Paul, maybe, just maybe, on a couple of occasions.

Ar Dheis De ar Anam.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1