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.

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