Tribute to Comrade Bill Leahy

Sean Garland, former President of the Workers' Party pays tribute to Bill Leahy, Socialist Internationalist


The news of Comrade Bill Leahy’s death reached us two months after he died.  An American by birth, an internationalist in the true meaning of the word by conviction and family history, he spent a number of years in Ireland during the 1970s.  During that time, he was an active member of the Party and his contribution was recognised by comrades from all over Ireland.  A modest and well-respected comrade he was insightful and clear as to the road the Party had embarked upon, socialism.


Coming from Chicago, a city with a strong working-class history with many struggles against capitalism, he was well able to identify with the struggle of Irish workers to build a united party and in turn unite the working class, north and south, through the principles of Wolfe Tone and those of James Connolly.  In a short obituary published in the Irish Times on Saturday 7th March some references are made to Bill’s family background and his development as a journalist and lecturer.  Typical Irish Times begrudgery, they mention in passing “his involvement with the Workers’ Party which led to him coming to the attention of the Special Branch.  Leaving Ireland under some duress, he went to Cairo”.  They fail to mention who it was that put him under duress.


All the time that Bill spent in Ireland he was politically active with official Sinn Fein and also when it became Sinn Fein The Workers’ Party.  He played a part in bringing about that critical development from a narrow nationalist movement into a class-conscious Party.  In the years following his departure from Ireland, Bill retained close contact with the Workers’ Party and the friends and comrades with whom he had worked on the many political problems of that time.  He was generous in contributing financially whenever the Party sent out an appeal for funds or to contest elections. 


When he became seriously ill he placed the Workers’ Party on his list of those who were to be kept informed as to his health.  His illness gradually worsened and ultimately there was no means of communicating with a friend and comrades who had spent his life in the field of communicating ideas and rendering assistance to so many people who benefitted greatly from knowing and working with him.  It was a very savage twist of fate that robbed him of the ability to communicate at the end of his days which he spent in a rest home.


We will remember Comrade Bill Leahy for his friendship, for his contribution to our cause of socialism, for his loyalty and his patience and support to us at some very difficult times for Party members and indeed the Party.


I think Bill Leahy’s life is well captured in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem “Success”.




To laugh often and much;

to win the respect of

intelligent people and the

 affection of children;

to earn the appreciation of

honest critics

and endure the betrayal

of false friends.

To appreciate beauty;

to find the best in others;

to leave the world a bit better

whether by a healthy child,

a garden patch or

a redeemed social condition;

to know that even one life

has breathed easier

because you have lived

This is to have succeeded.


-           Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)



We can truly say that by any stretch Comrade Bill Leahy’s life was an outstanding success.


-           Sean Garland, 9th March 2009

Peace, Work, Democracy & Class Politics