Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI) ✒ remember a fine colleague and its honorary president. 

‘Eddie’ Ó Néill, a true legend of the left republican and anti-fascist movement. passed away peacefully in the company of his family in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, on July 27. Eddie was a proud loughshore native of Doire Treasc i gContae Thír Eoghain.

We send our condolences to his family in Dublin and Tyrone and to his many comrades and friends across Ireland, Spain, the Basque Country, Catalunya, the US, Britain, Canada, Cúba and elsewhere.

Eddie O’Neill represented the very essence of Irish republican resistance and its symbiotic relationship with international anti-fascist solidarity and activism. A warm, engaging, charismatic and intriguing individual, he represented all that is best in humanity, with his understated selflessness often masking a fearless determination.

Interned as a young man while serving his engineering apprenticeship at Shorts, he was incarcerated in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast, and Magilligan prison Camp, Co Derry, where he witnessed the infamous precursor to Bloody Sunday, when soldiers fired plastic bullets and CS gas at anti-internment protesters on Magilligan Strand.

After his release, Eddie became a full-time republican activist, operating in Ireland, the US and England. He was arrested in London in 1974 on conspiracy charges and while on remand he was broken-hearted by the death of his close friend and Co Tyrone comrade, Hugh Coney, who was shot dead by British soldiers after an escape from Long Kesh prison camp that October.

Convicted as a member of the so-called ‘Uxbridge 8’ the following year, he received a 20 years’ sentence in maximum-security English prisons. Over the next 14 years until his eventual release in 1988, he would spend much of his time in solitary confinement in various jails, enduring unimaginable brutality.

Eddie held little regard for material things, but he did treasure a copy of Peadar O’Donnell’s The Gates Flew Open – although he never read it. It belonged to his comrade Frank Stagg who left it open on his locker before he died on hunger strike in 1976. Eddie had shared the adjoining cell in Wakefield Prison. In all the years he had it, he never turned that page.

He was classed as a Category A prisoner - one considered likely to escape. He made good on this classification in 1977 with an escape attempt from Wormwood Scrubs and the following year he took part in a rooftop protest in Gartree in pursuit of demands for repatriation and political status.

As a result of the relentless attempts to break his spirit, in May 1979 he was rushed to the prison hospital at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight suffering from blinding headaches, insomnia, partial blindness and partial paralysis.

For the previous two years he had suffered an inhumane regime of sleep torture, consisting of his cell light being left on 24 hours a day and frequent night searches, even though he was forced to strip before going to bed and to leave his clothes outside his cell.

He had no sooner finished his treatment than he was transferred to Winson Green prison and put back into solitary. He subsequently received a severe beating from prison officers. When he complained about his injuries, he lost his remission. Ever the fighter, he appealed this capricious decision, and the lost remission was restored.

He took everything that the empire could throw at him.

Following his eventual release, he continued his republican activism but widened it to encompass internationalism and anti-fascism. This path inspired him, along with International Brigades veteran Bob Doyle, Harry Owens and a small number of others, to establish the Friends of Charlie Donnelly, in memory of a fellow republican socialist, Co Tyrone native and International Brigader who had fallen at the Battle of Jarama in defence of the Spanish Republic in February 1937.

The group’s motivation has never been purely historical in nature: Eddie and the other members believe that the best way to honour the International Brigades is to draw inspiration from them to encourage future generations to take up the fight against fascism and imperialism.

Thanks in no small part to Eddie’s single-minded dedication to getting things done and his ability to attract people to work with him, in 2010 the group evolved into Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI).

Eddie proved that neither borders nor languages were insurmountable barriers to activism. He forged strong and enduring links across Ireland, Britain, Spain, The Basque Country, Catalunya, and the US in particular. These relationships will be the backbone of FIBI’s work into the future.

In Ireland, Eddie and other FIBI members had been erecting and repairing monuments to International Brigaders for several years. His work extended to every corner of Ireland and in 2010, he fulfilled a long-term ambition to complete a cairn overlooking where Charlie Donnelly fell at Jarama.

Of course, he had already planned this many years before it happened, laying the groundwork for this initiative of such symbolic importance through close co-operation with the Ayuntamiento de Rivas Vaciamadrid local authority and activists in the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (AABI).

The cairn, comprising stones from the 32 counties of Ireland, has been maintained and restored by the local authority after frequent attacks by Franco’s heirs and successors – a backhanded compliment to its significance. This monument has become a rallying point for internationalists, socialists, republicans, communists, anarchists, and democrats who gather every year to pay homage to those who defended democracy and freedom in the 1930s.

Eddie was committed to erecting memorials to every single Irish Brigader who served the anti-fascist cause in Spain. He researched primary and secondary sources in several countries and unearthed information on previously ‘lost’ volunteers, spending countless hours researching the labyrinthine Moscow Archives.

This research forged a path for commemorations in areas where local communities had no idea of the heroism of their forebears. Many of these ‘Volunteers of Liberty’ remain buried in unknown graves on Spanish soil, but Eddie was determined that their memories would endure.

Eddie’s determination to confront fascism became emblematic of his activism and internationalist outlook. In him, it was easy to recognise the living spirit of the International Brigaders.

His name was rightfully synonymous with the anti-fascist cause in Ireland and beyond. He planned and organised commemorative events across Spain, the Basque Country and Catalunya, where he was a regular and popular visitor in his famous green hiace van (which served simultaneously as transport, accommodation and centre of logistics). Eddie’s name is lauded in many villages, towns, and cities across the Iberian Peninsula where he rested, laughed, talked politics, cajoled, and took part in acts of international solidarity.

Eddie stayed particularly close to his many friends and comrades in the Republican Movement and he had a deep and enduring bond with his fellow ex-prisoners, many of whom joined him as he led solidarity trips to Spain and the Basque Country from 2007 onwards.

Although a committed internationalist, he remained very proud of his Co Tyrone roots. He was the force behind the recent revival of the Charlie Donnelly Winter School in Dungannon and the annual commemorations at Killybrackey and Moybridge. He was also passionate about his beloved Fir an Chnoic (Derrytresk Gaelic Football Club) in his native parish and was extremely proud to see the team reach the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park in 2012.

Eddie leaves a powerful, inspiring legacy that will endure for those of us who follow. His energy seemed boundless and, even as his final illness took a heavy toll, he continued to carry his pain with stoicism, dignity, and humour.

His loss is devastating, not only to his family and friends, but to FIBI, of which he was the founder and Honorary President. His final message to the group urged us to carry on his work in commemorating the International Brigades and continuing the anti-fascist cause, which he considered more relevant now than ever, in the face of the increasing threat from resurgent monopoly capitalism, neoliberalism and the growing confidence of the fascist foot soldiers of hate and intolerance.

In his final days, he implored us to keep following in his footsteps. We are comforted in the belief that he knew we would continue his struggle. And what an inspiration we now have! What a legacy he has left us.

La lucha continúa!

No pasarán!

The Flowering Bars

(Charlie Donnelly 1914-37)

After sharp words from the fine mind,

protest in court,

the intimate high head constrained,

strait lines of prison, empty walls,

a subtle beauty in a simple place.


There to strain thought through the tightened brain,

there weave

the slender cords of thought, in calm,

until routine in prospect bound

joy into security,

and among strictness sweetness grew,

mystery of flowering bars.

Eddie O Neill 1950 - 2021 ➖ Irish Republican, Anti-Fascist, Internationalist

Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI) ✒ remember a fine colleague and its honorary president. 

‘Eddie’ Ó Néill, a true legend of the left republican and anti-fascist movement. passed away peacefully in the company of his family in Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, on July 27. Eddie was a proud loughshore native of Doire Treasc i gContae Thír Eoghain.

We send our condolences to his family in Dublin and Tyrone and to his many comrades and friends across Ireland, Spain, the Basque Country, Catalunya, the US, Britain, Canada, Cúba and elsewhere.

Eddie O’Neill represented the very essence of Irish republican resistance and its symbiotic relationship with international anti-fascist solidarity and activism. A warm, engaging, charismatic and intriguing individual, he represented all that is best in humanity, with his understated selflessness often masking a fearless determination.

Interned as a young man while serving his engineering apprenticeship at Shorts, he was incarcerated in Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast, and Magilligan prison Camp, Co Derry, where he witnessed the infamous precursor to Bloody Sunday, when soldiers fired plastic bullets and CS gas at anti-internment protesters on Magilligan Strand.

After his release, Eddie became a full-time republican activist, operating in Ireland, the US and England. He was arrested in London in 1974 on conspiracy charges and while on remand he was broken-hearted by the death of his close friend and Co Tyrone comrade, Hugh Coney, who was shot dead by British soldiers after an escape from Long Kesh prison camp that October.

Convicted as a member of the so-called ‘Uxbridge 8’ the following year, he received a 20 years’ sentence in maximum-security English prisons. Over the next 14 years until his eventual release in 1988, he would spend much of his time in solitary confinement in various jails, enduring unimaginable brutality.

Eddie held little regard for material things, but he did treasure a copy of Peadar O’Donnell’s The Gates Flew Open – although he never read it. It belonged to his comrade Frank Stagg who left it open on his locker before he died on hunger strike in 1976. Eddie had shared the adjoining cell in Wakefield Prison. In all the years he had it, he never turned that page.

He was classed as a Category A prisoner - one considered likely to escape. He made good on this classification in 1977 with an escape attempt from Wormwood Scrubs and the following year he took part in a rooftop protest in Gartree in pursuit of demands for repatriation and political status.

As a result of the relentless attempts to break his spirit, in May 1979 he was rushed to the prison hospital at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight suffering from blinding headaches, insomnia, partial blindness and partial paralysis.

For the previous two years he had suffered an inhumane regime of sleep torture, consisting of his cell light being left on 24 hours a day and frequent night searches, even though he was forced to strip before going to bed and to leave his clothes outside his cell.

He had no sooner finished his treatment than he was transferred to Winson Green prison and put back into solitary. He subsequently received a severe beating from prison officers. When he complained about his injuries, he lost his remission. Ever the fighter, he appealed this capricious decision, and the lost remission was restored.

He took everything that the empire could throw at him.

Following his eventual release, he continued his republican activism but widened it to encompass internationalism and anti-fascism. This path inspired him, along with International Brigades veteran Bob Doyle, Harry Owens and a small number of others, to establish the Friends of Charlie Donnelly, in memory of a fellow republican socialist, Co Tyrone native and International Brigader who had fallen at the Battle of Jarama in defence of the Spanish Republic in February 1937.

The group’s motivation has never been purely historical in nature: Eddie and the other members believe that the best way to honour the International Brigades is to draw inspiration from them to encourage future generations to take up the fight against fascism and imperialism.

Thanks in no small part to Eddie’s single-minded dedication to getting things done and his ability to attract people to work with him, in 2010 the group evolved into Friends of the International Brigades Ireland (FIBI).

Eddie proved that neither borders nor languages were insurmountable barriers to activism. He forged strong and enduring links across Ireland, Britain, Spain, The Basque Country, Catalunya, and the US in particular. These relationships will be the backbone of FIBI’s work into the future.

In Ireland, Eddie and other FIBI members had been erecting and repairing monuments to International Brigaders for several years. His work extended to every corner of Ireland and in 2010, he fulfilled a long-term ambition to complete a cairn overlooking where Charlie Donnelly fell at Jarama.

Of course, he had already planned this many years before it happened, laying the groundwork for this initiative of such symbolic importance through close co-operation with the Ayuntamiento de Rivas Vaciamadrid local authority and activists in the Asociación de Amigos de las Brigadas Internacionales (AABI).

The cairn, comprising stones from the 32 counties of Ireland, has been maintained and restored by the local authority after frequent attacks by Franco’s heirs and successors – a backhanded compliment to its significance. This monument has become a rallying point for internationalists, socialists, republicans, communists, anarchists, and democrats who gather every year to pay homage to those who defended democracy and freedom in the 1930s.

Eddie was committed to erecting memorials to every single Irish Brigader who served the anti-fascist cause in Spain. He researched primary and secondary sources in several countries and unearthed information on previously ‘lost’ volunteers, spending countless hours researching the labyrinthine Moscow Archives.

This research forged a path for commemorations in areas where local communities had no idea of the heroism of their forebears. Many of these ‘Volunteers of Liberty’ remain buried in unknown graves on Spanish soil, but Eddie was determined that their memories would endure.

Eddie’s determination to confront fascism became emblematic of his activism and internationalist outlook. In him, it was easy to recognise the living spirit of the International Brigaders.

His name was rightfully synonymous with the anti-fascist cause in Ireland and beyond. He planned and organised commemorative events across Spain, the Basque Country and Catalunya, where he was a regular and popular visitor in his famous green hiace van (which served simultaneously as transport, accommodation and centre of logistics). Eddie’s name is lauded in many villages, towns, and cities across the Iberian Peninsula where he rested, laughed, talked politics, cajoled, and took part in acts of international solidarity.

Eddie stayed particularly close to his many friends and comrades in the Republican Movement and he had a deep and enduring bond with his fellow ex-prisoners, many of whom joined him as he led solidarity trips to Spain and the Basque Country from 2007 onwards.

Although a committed internationalist, he remained very proud of his Co Tyrone roots. He was the force behind the recent revival of the Charlie Donnelly Winter School in Dungannon and the annual commemorations at Killybrackey and Moybridge. He was also passionate about his beloved Fir an Chnoic (Derrytresk Gaelic Football Club) in his native parish and was extremely proud to see the team reach the All-Ireland Final in Croke Park in 2012.

Eddie leaves a powerful, inspiring legacy that will endure for those of us who follow. His energy seemed boundless and, even as his final illness took a heavy toll, he continued to carry his pain with stoicism, dignity, and humour.

His loss is devastating, not only to his family and friends, but to FIBI, of which he was the founder and Honorary President. His final message to the group urged us to carry on his work in commemorating the International Brigades and continuing the anti-fascist cause, which he considered more relevant now than ever, in the face of the increasing threat from resurgent monopoly capitalism, neoliberalism and the growing confidence of the fascist foot soldiers of hate and intolerance.

In his final days, he implored us to keep following in his footsteps. We are comforted in the belief that he knew we would continue his struggle. And what an inspiration we now have! What a legacy he has left us.

La lucha continúa!

No pasarán!

The Flowering Bars

(Charlie Donnelly 1914-37)

After sharp words from the fine mind,

protest in court,

the intimate high head constrained,

strait lines of prison, empty walls,

a subtle beauty in a simple place.


There to strain thought through the tightened brain,

there weave

the slender cords of thought, in calm,

until routine in prospect bound

joy into security,

and among strictness sweetness grew,

mystery of flowering bars.

3 comments:

  1. A lovely tribute.
    A sad loss.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A sad loss to the "left republican" and anti-fascist position and cause.

    ReplyDelete
  3. TPQ does not carry comments from "Unknown." If you wish you comment published please sign off on it.

    ReplyDelete