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Some famous Irish communists

Seán Murray

(1898–1961)


Seán Murray was born in 1898, the son of a small farmer in Cushendall, Co. Antrim. Though showing signs of being a brilliant pupil at Glenaan National School, he had to leave at the age of fourteen to work on his father’s and uncle’s farms. His teacher, Master McNamee, took a continuous interest in his education and introduced him to classical literature.
     As a youth Murray became interested in the national and labour movements. He joined the IRA, becoming commandant of the Antrim Battalion, which engaged in attacks on RIC barracks. In 1920, while on his way to join a flying column with his adjutant, Malcolm McKeegan, he was arrested by British forces and brought to Belfast Prison. He was later transferred to the Curragh Internment Camp, from which he was released on the declaration of the truce that preceded the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.
     In December 1922 Murray met Peadar O’Donnell for the first time; thereafter they became close friends and comrades in arms on the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. Afterwards Murray emigrated to England, working for a period in the London docks and becoming a delegate to the London Trades Council and later its secretary.
     When he returned to Ireland he became organiser of the Irish Worker League, which had been formed by Jim Larkin. From 1928 to 1931 he was a student at the Lenin International School in Moscow, and when he returned to Ireland he became organiser of the Revolutionary Workers’ Groups. He was nearly burned alive in March 1933 when the head office of the RWG, Connolly House, in Great Strand Street, Dublin, was attacked and set alight by a mob incited by priests.
     On the foundation of the Communist Party of Ireland in June 1933 Seán Murray was elected general secretary. In October he was served with an expulsion order from the territory of Northern Ireland, which he refused to recognise; he continued to make many secret journeys there but was eventually arrested and jailed.
     Murray was general secretary of the CPI from 1933 to 1940 and national organiser from then until his death at the age of sixty-three in 1961. A man of great intellect as well as a prolific journalist, editor, and pamphleteer, he was an outstanding Marxist-Leninist scholar, with the specific ability to apply his revolutionary knowledge to Irish conditions.

[Based on the article by Graham Stevenson.]

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