Anthony McIntyre  ⚑ I knew Peter O'Rourke from my time serving on Belfast and District branch of the NUJ, where he was a regular attendee at its meetings, chipping in with pearls of wisdom adroitly honed by years of union activism.

Peter O'Rourke

At different times in his journalistic career he worked on behalf of the union at chapel, branch and national level. Like many in the trade union movement he had a deep commitment to first protecting and then improving, where possible, the terms and conditions of his fellow workers. For years he worked for the Irish News where he was a production journalist. In 1974 he was editor of the Carrickfergus Advertiser.

Born in 1933 Peter had a long innings as the saying goes. Into his 70s, at least, he remained active in union activity. As I moved to Louth I don't know if he continued with union activities, my focus shifting to the NUJ in Dublin. Certainly he and the lively John Ley, both septuagenarians when I was with them, brought a huge amount of energy and commitment to union activity. Under the firm hand of Kevin Cooper we all pitched in to enhance the profile and activity of the Belfast and District branch.

I enjoyed working with them all and learning from them. It was also an experience that helped broaden my horizons, reinforcing a view that had stirred within me for some time that the IRA's armed campaign that I had been part of had contributed to more injustices than it solved. The journalist Olivia O'Leary recently referred to a warrior class mentality that firewalled the Republican Movement from any notion that a democratic culture and ethos were much more vital to a society in need of improvement than any number of military operations or prison protests. More than that, the same warrior class mentality inured its adherents to the real suffering of its victims, spawning a mindset that the suffering of ourselves alone was what mattered. In the NUJ, I was engaging with many people whose occupation led to them covering IRA activities they found to be abhorrent. Often, they had witnessed the bodies before they were bagged They were genuine in their belief and did not feel the need to kill others as a demonstration of fidelity to their cause.

NUJ Assistant General Secretary, Seamus Dooley commented on his passing in February:

Peter belonged to a generation of committed NUJ members. He served the union with distinction. He is remembered for his humour and his quick wit. He was a regular delegate at conferences and enjoyed the social element of every gathering, usually leading a sing song, sometimes bringing political factions together after an acrimonious debate.

Actions that united rather than divided seemed to be a driving force in the life of Peter. 

His passion for Irish traditional music is said to have equalled his penchant for trade union activism. I have had cause to wonder that an innocent ardour for Irish culture could have made him a target for hate in Larne where he lived. In her eulogy for him Fiona O'Rourke endearingly wrote that 'Peter believed you could never be bored or have nothing to do should you have a shelf full of books.'  A lengthy spell in prison taught me the wisdom of that most fitting of epitaphs. 

Peter O'Rourke died a few months short of his 60th wedding anniversary and his 90th birthday. Those who knew him can only hope to attain a similar longevity and achieve as much.

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

Peter O'Rourke

Anthony McIntyre  ⚑ I knew Peter O'Rourke from my time serving on Belfast and District branch of the NUJ, where he was a regular attendee at its meetings, chipping in with pearls of wisdom adroitly honed by years of union activism.

Peter O'Rourke

At different times in his journalistic career he worked on behalf of the union at chapel, branch and national level. Like many in the trade union movement he had a deep commitment to first protecting and then improving, where possible, the terms and conditions of his fellow workers. For years he worked for the Irish News where he was a production journalist. In 1974 he was editor of the Carrickfergus Advertiser.

Born in 1933 Peter had a long innings as the saying goes. Into his 70s, at least, he remained active in union activity. As I moved to Louth I don't know if he continued with union activities, my focus shifting to the NUJ in Dublin. Certainly he and the lively John Ley, both septuagenarians when I was with them, brought a huge amount of energy and commitment to union activity. Under the firm hand of Kevin Cooper we all pitched in to enhance the profile and activity of the Belfast and District branch.

I enjoyed working with them all and learning from them. It was also an experience that helped broaden my horizons, reinforcing a view that had stirred within me for some time that the IRA's armed campaign that I had been part of had contributed to more injustices than it solved. The journalist Olivia O'Leary recently referred to a warrior class mentality that firewalled the Republican Movement from any notion that a democratic culture and ethos were much more vital to a society in need of improvement than any number of military operations or prison protests. More than that, the same warrior class mentality inured its adherents to the real suffering of its victims, spawning a mindset that the suffering of ourselves alone was what mattered. In the NUJ, I was engaging with many people whose occupation led to them covering IRA activities they found to be abhorrent. Often, they had witnessed the bodies before they were bagged They were genuine in their belief and did not feel the need to kill others as a demonstration of fidelity to their cause.

NUJ Assistant General Secretary, Seamus Dooley commented on his passing in February:

Peter belonged to a generation of committed NUJ members. He served the union with distinction. He is remembered for his humour and his quick wit. He was a regular delegate at conferences and enjoyed the social element of every gathering, usually leading a sing song, sometimes bringing political factions together after an acrimonious debate.

Actions that united rather than divided seemed to be a driving force in the life of Peter. 

His passion for Irish traditional music is said to have equalled his penchant for trade union activism. I have had cause to wonder that an innocent ardour for Irish culture could have made him a target for hate in Larne where he lived. In her eulogy for him Fiona O'Rourke endearingly wrote that 'Peter believed you could never be bored or have nothing to do should you have a shelf full of books.'  A lengthy spell in prison taught me the wisdom of that most fitting of epitaphs. 

Peter O'Rourke died a few months short of his 60th wedding anniversary and his 90th birthday. Those who knew him can only hope to attain a similar longevity and achieve as much.

Follow on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre.

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