Tomás MacGiolla was born in Nenagh, County Tipperary on 25th January 1924 and he died on 4th February 2010. In the course of a lifetime of revolutionary political activity he was elected President of Sinn Féin in 1962. He guided the party through the split of 1969/70 and when the party became Sinn Féin The Workers Party in 1977 he remained as President.
In 1982 the party was named The Workers party of Ireland to reflect its programme and ideology. Tomás MacGiolla was to the forefront, as party President, in achieving this major name change.
Elected as a Councillor to Dublin Corporation for Ballyfermot Ward in 1979, he remained a Councillor until November 1992. In 1993/94 he was Lord Mayor of Dublin.
True Gael. Socialist Republican. Internationalist.
We recall Tomás's words spoken at The Workers' Party Ard Fheis on 23rd May 1992 shortly after the defection of a number of TD's who sought to destroy the party. They failed.
" The Workers' Party was built on solid foundation. It was built on our historical experience of never ending struggle both foreign and native. It is a history and a struggle which has forged our cultural indentity and diversity, our social attitudes, our relationship to each other and our desire to reach out to the oppressed of other lands.
Our Socialism grew from our democratic secular republican principles, from our knowledge of and identity with earlier struggles in our history and in particular from the lessons learned in our own political struggles for social and civil rights in the 1960s and 1970s. Throughout that period we organised, agitated and educated until we had built a strong, disciplined, politically educated organisation with a clear ideology and rapidly developing political programme.
With the collapse of The Soviet Union and other Eastern European Countries the majority of members saw the need for the party was great if not greater than ever though they did recognise that the language of Socialism must change, our methodology must be reviewed and also our relationship with other organisations at home and abroad. However the principles, direction and objectives of the party were not for change. If they were to change them we would no longer be The Workers' Party.
But that is precisely what some members of the Party wanted to do. They wanted a new party of the centre, with acceptable establishment politics, with " no baggage of the past ", that is no historical roots. They obviously believe we have reached " the end of history ". Their purpose has less to do with the collapse of Communism than with their own personal ambitions born out of the electoral successes of 1989.
If there is some political content in the decision of the Democratic Left Party to start a new party I would like to hear it. There is so little space for them they are already standing on each others toes. Without the anchor of some political principle or objective every issue is open to debate amongst themselves with decisions made on the basis of Proinsias De Rossa's principle which is " if you don't agree with me you are an undemocratic stalinist ".
We have fought for our Party and for our socialist ideals and we have secured them. We now need to think about a bigger, better Workers' party, we can go some way along the road to achieving this by talking about our socialist ideals and policies in a language that people will understand and respond to. Any barriers between us and the people should be confronted and torn down. Lets try honest, straightforward language. Because The Workers' Party is uniting working people in a powerful and progressive voting bloc, we have made many enemies and come under many attacks. If we are worth our salt as a socialist party we will make many more. That is in the nature of political struggle. We should decide now to get back into the political struggle without any apology about our socialist and secular beliefs. Let us decide that honesty and integrity brings respect, not disfavour.
Mar focal scóir ba mbhaith liom labhairt libh sa gnáth baill an pháirtí. Do sheas sibh go daingean agus do dílis ar son Páirtí n-Oibrithe nuair a bhí sé i mbaoighal. Do sheas sibh in eadan na ceannaire a thog sibh chun an Phairti a chosaint on a namhdaibh, na ceannaire in ar chuir sibh bhur muinin nuair a bhí sé soléir díbh go raibh siad ag iarraidh an Pháirtí seo a bhriseadh. Ba libhse an Pháirtí agus do throid sibh ar a shon. B'shin daonfhlathas na bfhaca mé ríamh é.
In conclusion I wish to say that you the members were always the heart and soul of The Workers' Party and you have remained so by standing up for the party when a group of the leadership tried to smash it up. You were told socialism was dead, you were told idealism was dead and you were told the Party you had built was dead. And those with no ideals told you there were no heroes in the world anymore. You have proved the wrong on all counts. You stood by socialism and idealism and you shunned opportunism. You let yourselves be guided by your deepest political instincts. As you fought back you were accused of almost everything. But no one accused you of being heroes - Well I now salute you all - working class heroes ".
Tomas MacGiolla's words are still relevant today a rallying cry to the working class and especially to party members. As he so often said the system of Capitalism, which is based on greed, is incapable of creating a decent society where the working class will have equality, justice and freedom.