Francie Donnelly


Extracts from the eulogy for the late Francie Donnelly, delivered by the Chair of the Northern Ireland Region of the Workers Party, Gerry Grainger.

Today is a sad day. It is a sad day for Marian, Francie’s wife and lifelong comrade; for his childen, for his grandchildren and wider family and friends. Their loss, on the passing of this remarkable man,. is immense and immeasurable. 

He was a man who was deeply committed to the struggle for peace, justice and equality and he was not afraid, even in the darkest and most dangerous days of our history, to make a stand for what he believed. 

Francie was an activist for civil rights, in fact, he was the first Chairman of the Civil Rights Movement in South Derry. He also met Marian through their joint involvement in the civil rights movement – a moment which brought together two people who were to spend their lives committed to the fight for peace, democracy and class politics.

The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) set out to reform and democratise Northern Ireland and in doing so its programme was also revolutionary in that it would fundamentally change the nature of the state. It faced many obstcales including state oppression and violent reactionary opposition on the streets.

Among the many successes of the civil rights movement were the establishment of the Housing Executive and the fair allocation of public housing, universal franchise and the end of multiple votes for business owners, the disbanding of the Special Constabulary (B Specials) and the disarming of the police.

Had the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, and other progressive forces, been allowed to pursue their legitimate demands, then those who engaged in the bloody and unnecessary carnage inflicted over three decades could never have hijacked the issue of civil rights as a pretext to justify their unnecessary campaign of violence.

Every time you spoke to Francie, there were always two topics to the forefront of his mind, the need to confront sectarianism and the demand for a Bill of Rights. Throughout his life he maintained a vision for a future free from the poison of sectarianism which divided, and continues to divide, our people.

Francie was not one to hide his strongly held beliefs. Courageously, he represented the Republican Clubs and the Workers Party in many elections for over 30 years representing the Party on Magherafelt District Council. He won respect from many across the community, including those who disagreed with him.

Francie was a committed socialist and he was committed to the principles of internationalism. He and Marian travelled to Cuba for May Day in 2009 to celebrate the anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

Francie Donnelly was a remarkable man. It is not a word he would have used to describe himself but it is a fitting description nonetheless. Francie was a modest and gracious man but for us, his comrades, he was a giant and an inspiration.  That is demonstrated by the many messages of condolence from across the island and abroad.

His words of advice, his analysis of political events, his unstinting opposition to sectarianism and his steadfast dedication to the class politics and ideology of the Workers Party will be sorely missed. Francie understood the fundamental importance of political ideas, of the centrality of class politics and the necessity for a radical transformation of the political, social and economic system in which we live.

A dedicated political activist to the very end, he was a stalwart of the Party in South Derry and beyond. Francie Donnelly believed that workers unity was fundamental to building a socialist society. He will always be remembered by his comrades and friends in the Workers Party.

Polls Apart

The winners in last week’s elections were our own local nationalisms – British and Irish. The already tight grip they collectively hold on political power was strengthened even further by an overwhelming majority of voters.

Well over 50% of first preference votes went to either Sinn Fein or the DUP. Smaller nationalist parties like the TUV and Aontu were also endorsed by the electorate.

The losers are anybody and everybody who wants an end to sectarian division, segregated education, segregated housing and tribal politics. Anybody and everybody who wants secure well-paid employment, an end to the culture of zero hours contracts, a low wage economy and an absence of affordable, flexible childcare.

In fact, anybody and everyone who wants a progressive, caring and supportive society can say goodbye to the possibility of movement on any of those fronts.

Class Politics

Nationalism, British or Irish, is not about any of these things. It is about division, difference, belligerence and tribalism. It is also about capitalist economics. That is why we are a Workers Party, that is why our politics and our programme are class based. That is why we refuse to roll over and submerge ourselves in sectarian populism.

Make no mistake, nationalism, both British and Irish, is a political poison that stands in the way of uniting working people here, just as it divides workers across the globe.

 Nationalism is not only a backward political philosophy: it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts working class unity and the struggle for socialism. We must strive at every turn to combat this toxic ideology, and never give an inch in our relentless struggle against it. We have seen time and again where it leads.

Trade Unions

It is hard to reconcile the actions of the thousands of trade unionists, workers, their families and friends who have taken to the picket lines, marches and rallies in recent months in defence of public services, jobs, better conditions, better pay and a better society, with the outcome of the local elections.

The left urgently needs to re-analyse and re-orientate itself to face down this growing political cancer and its consequences.

The trade union movement needs to ask itself if it is a vehicle for protest or a vehicle for change. We all need to ask how the power, the dynamism and the class consciousness of working people, so clearly demonstrated in recent times, can become a catalyst for positive change and a bulwark against the most reactionary and divisive elements of our society.

It is not a task that can wait.

Our Votes Send a Message too!

The major political parties are urging the electorate to use their vote next Thursday to ‘send a message’.

Depending on the party, it will be a different target, but the same message.  All their messages and all their energies are directed at their direct political opponents. It’s easy to summarise: ‘Vote for us to stop them winning’.


The Workers Party wants to send a message this Thursday too. It’s a message to all those parties who have presided over child poverty, lengthening hospital waiting lists, underfunded and under resourced community care, an absence of accessible flexible child care, a lack of affordable public housing, segregated education, a divided working class, zero hours contracts, low paid part-time jobs, run down and privatised public services, a crisis in mental health provision, inadequate public transport and a lack of jobs, hope or prospects.

And our message is clear and easy to understand. The major parties haven’t failed to tackle these problems – they simply haven’t tried!


Flags, culture wars and division is all they have offered because that is all it takes to keep working people divided, to foster the divisive narrative of two communities and to secure their own futures for another term in office.

At a time when we should be moving forward together, at a time when we need to demonstrate strength and solidarity we have gone backwards. We have been dragged backwards.

British and Irish nationalism, represented mainly, but not exclusively by Sinn Fein and the DUP, see flags, community identity, language and symbolism as more important that the lives and prospects of working-class people. We are not in that camp.

A Party of Class

We are a Party of Class. Unapologetically, a Party of Class seeking the radical transformation of society and of our economic and social systems.  We have all been dragged down nationalism’s political cul-de-sac.  Now, it’s time we put Class back into politics. Now it’s time to deliver on Health, Housing, Education, Childcare and all the other priorities for working people.

Only the Workers Party can promise that, and we are committed to helping people to realise their full potential and secure a better quality of life for working people and their families.

An appetite and a desire for Class politics

As candidates and Party members continue to leaflet and canvas their respective constituencies, one thing becomes clearer by the day: now more than ever there is an appetite and a desire to see class politics consign the sectarian agendas of the major parties to the dustbin of history.

We are going to the polls in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, energy and other household bills are soaring out of control, our public services, including the NHS, are being cut back and privatised, and thousands of nurses, teachers, lecturers, council staff, civil servants, road workers, postal staff and others have been forced into taking industrial action to protect services and secure a decent wage.

That is why it is more important than ever that people vote for candidates that are prepared to make all those issues their priorities.  

That is why we must put the class back into local politics.

May Day 2023: Solidarity ,Resolve and Determination

Workers Party members joined with thousands of trade unionists at Saturday’s May Day March and Rally in Belfast city centre.

It was an impressive demonstration of solidarity, resolve and determination at a time when an economy based on greed and profit is forcing thousands of working people and their families in to poverty.

The message from today’s rally, addresed by RMT General Secrertary Mick Lynch, was loud and clear: working people will fight back – working people will win and only a socialist society can provide the equality, dignity and security they deserve.