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Some famous Irish communists

R. N. Tweedy

(1875–1956)



Robert Naudin Tweedy was born in Redruth, Cornwall, on 18 March 1875. Having trained as an electrical engineer, he later moved to Ireland. As an employee of William Coates and Son he was involved in the construction of some of the earliest power stations in Ireland, including that at Greystones, opened in 1912.
     In April 1916, as a member of the Officers’ Training Corps (part of the British army), he reported for duty to his unit in Trinity College, Dublin, which garrisoned the college and, together with British soldiers, fired on insurgents in the surrounding areas.
     Tweedy was a pioneer of the use of industrial alcohol as a fuel, and his book Industrial Alcohol was published by the Co-Operative Reference Library, Dublin (part of the Irish Co-Operative Organisation Society), in 1917.
     An early supporter of the Irish Free State government, in February 1922 he was appointed independent chairman of a conciliation board established by the Department of Industry and Commerce to investigate a dispute between the Dublin Master Printers’ [i.e. employers’] Association and the Irish Women Workers’ Union at Dollard’s printing company and to seek to establish general policies relating to the employment of women in the printing industry. He was subsequently appointed chairman of the Canal Commission (1922–26) and also published Irish Freedom Explained: The Constitution of Saorstát Éireann (Talbot Press, Dublin, 1923).
     Having developed strong radical opinions, Tweedy became a founder-member of the CPI in 1933. On the outbreak of the Spanish fascist revolt and the Anti-Fascist War in 1936, the Spanish Aid Committee was formed, later reorganised as the Irish Friends of the Spanish Republic. Tweedy became its secretary, alongside Hanna Sheehy Skeffington, Dorothy Macardle (writer and historian), Nora Connolly O’Brien (daughter of James Connolly), Bobbie Edwards (whose husband, Frank Edwards, went to fight in Spain), and Mai Keating. Presiding at a reception at his home in Carrickmines, Co. Dublin, organised by the Friends of the Spanish Republic in 1937 for the first Irish anti-fascist volunteers who returned home, Tweedy welcomed the returned men and expressed the hope that “they will soon be able to take their places in the trenches of the home front against fascism.”
     A man with a strict sense of honour, Tweedy sent a snooping Irish Independent reporter packing with a curt “There are still some decent men in Ireland, in spite of you. Good day!”
     When the CPI took the decision in 1941 to suspend the activities of the Dublin Branch and to urge its members to become active instead in the Labour Party, Tweedy was among those who did so. (They were all subsequently expelled.)
     Tweedy’s interests included turf technology, in which area he promoted co-operation with the Soviet Union. In 1935 the government sent a three-member delegation to the Continent—principally to the Soviet Union and Germany—to investigate the possibility of producing electricity by burning turf. Their report was not published, and no action was taken. Robert Tweedy, however, who accompanied the delegation at his own expense, made public his own findings and in November 1935 read a paper to the Engineering and Scientific Association of Ireland on the possibilities of producing electricity from turf, though this proposal was not taken up until 1950, when the ESB commissioned its first turf-fired generating station at Portarlington.
     Robert Tweedy died in 1956 at the age of eighty-one.

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