Tribute to Malachy McGurran

Sean Garland's tribute to his friend and comrade Malachy McGurran who died 31 years ago this week (27 July).

Malachy McGurran
Malachy McGurran

31 years ago, on 27th July 1978, Malachy McGurran died. He had fought against a tumour of the bone marrow for many years until, at the age of 38, it defeated him. His death, though not unexpected, still shocked his numerous friends and comrades in the party and in the country.

Malachy’s life, though short, was a demonstration of a life lived fully. Born in Lurgan, County Armagh, he was involved with the I.R.A. in the 1950s. He took part in the 1956 I.R.A. campaign and was interned in the Curragh Camp from 1957 to 1959. When released he remained active with the I.R.A. When the campaign was called off in 1962 he continued to play an important role in keeping the organisation intact and in working to free prisoners.

He spent most of his time in Dublin, where he lived with Mrs. Murray and her family, in Brighton Square, who adopted him as another son during the 1956 campaign. A very outgoing personality and full of humour and mischief, Malachy was popular with all who came to know him. In the early sixties he decided to return home to Lurgan where he was active with the Republican Clubs. He became Chairman of the Executive of Republican Clubs and Vice-President of the party. When the Civil Rights Association was founded he was one of the first to recognise the importance of the Civil Rights Movement. He was soon on the Executive of the N.I.C.R.A. and he was one of the most active members engaged in organising demonstrations for Civil Rights.

At the same time he was closely involved in rebuilding the movement and developing a programme of social and economic agitations. He had recognised the need to build a class conscious party, the importance of developing roots among the working class, and of strengthening contacts with other progressive organisations and parties in Ireland and abroad. He continually stressed the importance of party education and was always available to meet and discuss tactics and strategy with party members throughout the country. He played a very significant role in defeating the attempts of the MacStiofain / O’Bradaigh faction to divert the party and its supporters into blind militaristic nationalism.

If he played a key role in defeating the Provisional Alliance attempt to seize control of the party in 1969/70, he was one of the foremost and toughest fighters against the obscene and disastrous policies which Seamus Costello attempted to foist on the party. He had no time or patience with those who murdered or sought to murder his comrades or to murder innocent people, Catholic or Protestant, in order to further the ambitions of a physcopath. He had recognised for many years the evil aims of Costello and continually urged upon people the need to deal with Costello and his faction or face dire consequences. That he was proved correct was unfortunately borne out with the murder of such fine comrades as Sean Fox, Paul (Cheesy) Crawford and Billy McMillan.

Elected as a party Councillor to Craigavon District Council he very soon made his mark as an anti-sectarian and anti-terrorist councillor and spokesman. Never afraid to make his views known he sought to unite workers of all religions and of none. Greatly respected and admired he was much loved by all those who had the privilege of knowing and working with him. A modest man he was a great example of what Connolly and Lenin spoke about when they said that the working class would have to make its own leaders and heroes. A wonderful organiser, a great storyteller and marvellous company he was a unique and worthy product of working class struggle. He was always eager to learn and to pass on his experiences to others. The party lost one of its best with his untimely and sad death.

Malachy bore his illness with courage and humour. A courageous and compassionate man he loved humanity and respected human values. He knew the dignity of men and women and hated with a deep hatred whatever attempted to rob them of that dignity. He was a man of patriotism and history. He loved his country for its people and his country’s history for the peoples' struggle that could never be contained in narrow pages or narrower creeds. It was this that made him a Republican and a Socialist of deep conviction.

‘Every man’s life ends the same way and it is only the details of how he lived and of how he died that distinguishes one man from another” Ernest Hemingway, on death.

Peace, Work, Democracy & Class Politics