NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
Micheál S. O Loingsigh, who died in November, was apprenticed at The Kerryman newspaper as a teenager. He became a master printer following study at the London College of Printing. He helped establish the business firm Drogheda Printers, of which he was Managing Director for much of his working life.
He came from a Kerry Republican background, had family members in the War of
Independence and was a strong democrat and internationalist, a deep humanitarian and a very fine human being. St John’s Church, Tralee, was crowded for his funeral Mass, following which he was buried in Old Rath Cemetery.
During the 1960s Micheál O Loingsigh was a member of the Wolfe Tone Society
which had been established in 1963 to mark the bicentenary of the birth of Tone and which played an influential role in the formation of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association(NICRA). The Northern Civil Rights Movement which NICRA initially led helped destabilize Unionist hegemony after a half-century of one-sided Stormont rule. Micheál O Loingsigh walked in the first NICRA-sponsored civil rights march from Coalisland to Dungannon in August 1968 and was also on the follow-up march in Armagh.
When Ireland’s membership of the EEC became a live issue following the death of French President Charles de Gaulle in 1969 he became chairman of the Common Market Defence Campaign, which was the non-party group that campaigned against Ireland’s Accession Treaty to the EEC in the May 1972 constitutional referendum.
His firm printed many of the pamphlets which put forward the arguments of the No side on that occasion, which included the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Labour Party and the two elements of the recently divided Sinn Fein. In that campaign he debated with such luminaries as Garret FitzGerald, IFA President T.J. Maher, Fianna Fail’s Brian Lenihan Senior and Fine Gael’s Michael Sweetman and took part in many radio and TV debates dealing with the likely consequences of Ireland’s participation in the EEC, now the EU.
Following that he helped to establish the Irish Sovereignty Movement, of which he was also chairman, and he continued to campaign against European integration and in defence of Irish neutrality during the 1970s and 1980s. As chairman of the ISM he also campaigned for a Declaration of Intent by the British Government to work positively towards Irish reunification by consent as being in the best interests of both the British and Irish peoples, and he co-operated with the late Michael Mullen, General President of then ITGWU(now SIPTU), who was a personal friend of his, to that end.
In 1986 Micheál O Loingsigh was a central figure in the Constitutional Rights Campaign which was set up to help meet the expenses of the legal challege by economist Raymond Crotty to the FitzGerald-Spring Government’s proposed mode of ratification of the Single European Act treaty, which established the so-called “internal market”in the EC/EU. Mrs Mary McAleese and ITGWU President John Carroll were joint chairmen of this fund-raising body.
When Raymond Crotty won his case and the Supreme Court ruled that any treaty
which surrendered State sovereignty to Brussels must be approved by the Irish people in a referendum – for the people were the repositories of sovereignty and it could not be surrendered just by the politicians in the Oireachtas – Micheál O Loingsigh led the Constitutional Rights Campaign on the No side in the resulting SEA referendum. He became friends with the journalist the late Veronica Guerin, who acted as press officer in that campaign.
He also supported former Green MEP Patricia McKenna in her constitutional challenge to the Government’s spending of taxpayers’ money to obtain a Yes result in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty referendum on the euro-currency. The Supreme Court ruled later that any such one-sided expenditure in a referendum was undemocratic and unconstitutional.
Micheál O Loingsigh was a committed Irish language supporter and a member of
Conradh na Gailge, the Gaelic League. In the 1970s he served some days in Mountjoy Prison for his part in the TV license campaign against the Government’s failure to establish an Irish-language TV channel, which put pressure on the State to remedy that lack. He was also active in the Gaelscoil movement and helped establish Scoil Naithi in Ballinteer, Dublin. He brought up his children as Irish speakers and it was appropriate that his funeral service in St John’s Church, Tralee, was in Irish.
He was a friend of the Labour historian and Northern civil rights activist C.Desmond Greaves (1913-1988) and was one of the founders of the annual Desmond Greaves Weekend Political School, of which he was Director of for some years. He was also a friend of the late Kader Asmal who founded the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement of which Micheáll O Loingsigh was a member, and who was a Minister in Nelson Mandela’s first post-apartheid government in South Africa.
Micheál O Loingsigh was a proud Kerryman, a strong supporter of the County team and had been a champion sprinter in his youth.
He passed away peacefully at Tralee General Hospital, surrounded by his wife and children. He was a beloved husband of Eibhlín (nee Casey) and much loved father of Siobhán, Pádraig, Niall, Saibh, Muireann and Aine. He is sadly missed by his sister Helen (New York), brothers Pat and Jack (New York) and Fred (Tralee), sons-me-in-law Frank, Harry and Chris, daughters-in-law Suzanne and Isabel and his seventeen grandchildren, as well as by neighbours, friends, admirers and old political colleagues across the country.
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information
Contact: (07624) 491609
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