In the first week of January 2023, Mount Jerome crematorium was packed to capacity as activists from around Ireland gathered to pay their respects on the passing of Robert Navan.
Our country and progressive causes have lost a principled and committed anti-imperialist activist in Robert.
Robert began his political engagement with anti-imperialist and progressive politics as chairperson of the Ireland-Nicaragua Solidarity Group, an extremely effective group in mobilising solidarity with the Sandinista Revolution. The INSG raised money to aid the Sandinistas as well as direct solidarity in sending volunteers to pick coffee in Nicaragua as part of the international coffee brigades.
The INSG also secured a visit to Ireland by Daniel Ortega, leader of the Sandinista Revolutionary Government. Robert was the key in securing the cream of Irish progressive culture to play at a packed-out concert to celebrate the visit of Ortega.
Even after the defeat of the Sandinista revolutionary process, resulting from the counter-revolutionary activities of the “Contras” in Nicaragua, armed and trained by US imperialism, Robert kept up his long commitment of solidarity with the people and revolutionary forces of Latin America—from a lifelong solidarity with revolutionary Cuba to Venezuela. He lived long enough to see once again the Sandinistas winning elections in Nicaragua.
Robert was a founder-member of the Latin American Solidarity Centre, which carried on the work of solidarity.
Robert’s life was a rich one. A man of culture, including films, he was a founder-member, with members of the CPI, of the Progressive Film Club, which put on progressive films from around the world when venues for showing such films were difficult to find. He was the central figure in the founding of Club Sandino, which raised money for both Nicaragua and other progressive struggles. He brought Latin American and world music to an Irish audience, in many cases to an audience completely unaware of such cultural richness. The main radio and television stations, then as now, gave very little access for such musical forms, and indeed to even Irish culture, more obsessed with banal Anglo-American cultural influences.
During the funeral ceremony the rich and deep respect in which Robert was held by his family and his many comrades was clear to be seen. Quotations from Fidel Castro and Che Guevara rang loud in the crematorium. Robert had a great commitment to collective solidarity and collective liberation. His approach to solidarity was imbued with a spirit of rebellion; he had a very enquiring and sharp mind, and for him life was always fresh and full of fun. He was always a great person to meet and go for a coffee or a beer with.
In a statement, the Communist Party of Ireland said:
“We would like to express our deepest sympathy to all the family and friends of Robert Navan, in particular to his wife, Michelle, his lifelong companion and comrade; we know you will miss him deeply. We will all miss his charm, his sense of humour, his warm, firm handshake. He was one of the most decent and beautiful human beings that you could meet on life’s journey. The peoples of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua will feel the loss of his unbreakable solidarity. We mourn your passing. Salud, dear comrade!”
Robert will be greatly missed by his lifelong best friend, Comrade Michelle. We once again express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with Michelle and with all Robert’s family. His loss to progressive struggles here in Ireland is immeasurable. We dip our red banners in his memory.