Liam O’Brien (1945-2022)

On behalf of the Communist Party of Ireland I would like to express our deepest sorrow at the loss of a great comrade and friend, Liam O’Brien, who died on 6 April.

To his children, Aaron, Jason, Tanya, Cain, and Corinna, we can only guess the deep sense of loss that you are experiencing, and to all the extended family we extend our sympathy and solidarity.

Liam was a veteran and a lifelong member of the Communist Party of Ireland. He joined the CPI in the late 1960s or early 70s and remained an active member and staunch communist until his death. He suffered poor health in the last few years, which affected his active participation in the CPI, but he always kept himself up to date with what his party was doing—and demanding that we do more.

He was a grass-roots working-class activist and thinker, a self-educated communist. He was active in tenants’ and community groups and was involved in many community struggles in Ballymun and Priorswood-Belcamp up until his death.

Liam never shied away from a fight or a challenge. He well understood the system’s mechanisms of power that control the working class. He understood well where real power lies in Irish society: with those who own and control economic power, those who control the political levers; that elections every few years only allow for a changing of the guard, not for radical social and economic transformation.

He was involved in many social struggles, from rent strikes and unemployed struggles to opposing continued British rule in Ireland. One of his last struggles was against water charges and opposing the privatisation of water.

He had a great belief in the capacity of the working class to transform and change their lot and to transform society; what was needed was for them to get organised, to become politically active, to be class-aware, that to realise their own interests they need to fundamentally break the capitalist system, to see and realise that they have the power, through their own organisation, to change society; that nothing has ever been given to the working class here in Ireland, or anywhere else. This requires us to be organised and to struggle to wrench what we need and require from those who deny our class justice.

Liam was not some dry political armchair theorist but was a deeply humane person. He had a unique and infectious smile and laugh. He did not suffer fools gladly.

He was extremely well-read, in both political theory and Irish and world history.

He had a great sense of place. He was the quintessential son of the Dublin working class. He was proud of his city, proud of his class and the role it has played in the struggle for our national freedom and independence.

Liam was born in East Wall, reared in Donnycarney, a community with a strong labour and republican tradition. He was a proud Dubliner, father, activist, and thinker. He understood and absorbed the politics and the strategy of James Connolly, one of his great heroes.

This year, on the 15th of May, we gather in Arbour Hill to celebrate the life of James Connolly and the other leaders of the 1916 Rising; but this year there will be a big gap in our ranks, left by a small man whom we are here this morning to say farewell to.

Liam O’Brien was a militant communist and working-class leader, a staunch defender of socialism and in particular of revolutionary Cuba.

Liam led a great, fulfilled life of struggle and resistance. He struggled hard to leave a better life behind for his family, his community, for the Irish working class, and oppressed people all over the world.