1924 – Tomás Mac Giolla, republican and socialist, and later, Workers’ Party leader, is born near Nenagh, Co. Tipperary.

Tomás Mac Giolla (born 25 January 1924 – d. 4 February 2010) was an Irish politician. He was a Teachta Dála (TD) and a member of the Central Executive Committee of the Workers’ Party of Ireland.

Early life:

He was born Thomas Gill in Nenagh, County Tipperary. His uncle T. P. Gill was an Member of Parliament (MP) and member of the Irish Parliamentary Party of Charles Stewart Parnell. Tomás’s father Robert also stood unsuccessfully for election on a number of occasions. His mother was Mary Hourigan.

Mac Giolla was educated at the local national school in Nenagh before completing his secondary education at St. Flannan’s College, Ennis, County Clare. It was while at St. Flannan’s that he changed to using the Irish language version of his name. He won a scholarship to University College Dublin where he qualified with a Bachelor of Arts degree, followed by a degree in Commerce.

A qualified accountant, Mac Giolla was employed by the Irish Electricity Supply Board from 1947 until he went into full time politics in 1977.

In his early life Mac Giolla was an active republican. He joined Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) around 1950. He was interned by the Irish government during the IRA Border campaign of 1956 to 1962. He also served a number of prison sentences in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin.

Political career:

At the 1961 general election, Mac Giolla unsuccessfully contested the Tipperary North constituency for Sinn Féin.

In 1962 he became president of Sinn Féin and was one of the people who successfully pushed the party to the left during the 1960s. In 1969 Sinn Féin split and Mac Giolla remained leader of Official Sinn Féin. It was also in 1962 that Tomás married May McLoughlin who was also an active member of Sinn Féin and Cumann na mBan, the women’s section of the IRA.

In 1977 the party changed its name to Sinn Féin the Workers Party and in 1982 it became simply the Workers’ Party. At the November 1982 general election Mac Giolla was elected to Dáil Éireann for his party. In 1988 he retired as party leader and was succeeded by Proinsias De Rossa.

While president he was regarded as a mediator between the Marxist-Leninist wing headed by Sean Garland and the social-democratic wing of Prionsias de Rossa. At the 1992 special Ard Fheis he voted for the motion to abandon democratic centralism and to re-constitute the party much like the Communist Party of Italy. However the motion failed to reach the required two-thirds majority and after the departure of six Workers’ Party TDs led by De Rossa to form the new Democratic Left party in 1992, Mac Giolla was the sole member of the Workers’ Party in the Dáil. He lost his Dáil seat at the general election later that year by a margin of just 59 votes to Liam Lawlor of Fianna Fáil. In 1999 Mac Giolla wrote to the chairman of the Flood Tribunal calling for an investigation into revelations that former Dublin Assistant City and County Manager George Redmond had been the official supervisor at the election count in Dublin West and was a close associate of Liam Lawlor. In 2003 Redmond was convicted of corruption by a Dublin court but subsequently had his conviction quashed due to conflicting evidence.

In 1979, Mac Giolla was elected to Dublin Corporation for the Ballyfermot area. He was re-elected in 1985 and 1991. He served as Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1993 to 1994 and re-mained a member of Dublin Corporation until 1998.

In his eighties Mac Giolla continued to be active and was a member of the group which campaigned to save No. 16 Moore Street in Dublin city centre where the surrender of Patrick Pearse was completed. He also served on the Dublin ’98 committee to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the 1798 Rebellion.

He died in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin on 4 February 2010 after a long illness.



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