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Tomás Mac Giolla Dies Aged 86

Tomás Mac Giolla

The death took place on Thursday last of Tipperary born Mr Tomás Mac Giolla, former president of the Workers’ Party, who died at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, aged 86.

Mr Mac Giolla was born in Nenagh, Co Tipperary in 1924, son to farmer Mr Robert Gill and Mrs Mary Gill (Ni Hourigan). His uncle T. P. Gill was a Member of Parliament (MP) and member of the Irish Parliamentary Party of the land reform agitator, Charles Stewart Parnell.

Known in his early life as Tom Gill, he was educated locally by the Christian Brothers and later attended St Flannan’s College, Ennis, Co. Clare where his classmates were to included the future archbishop of Dublin, Kevin McNamara, and the future distinguished Dominican priest and social justice campaigner, Austin Flannery.

From St Flannan’s College, Mr Mac Giolla won a scholarship to University College Dublin (UCD) where he qualified with a Bachelor of Arts degree, followed by a degree in Commerce and was employed by the Irish Electricity Supply Board (ESB) as an accountant from 1947 until 1977 after which he became a full time politician. His contemporaries during his years at UCD included both future taoisigh, Mr Charles Haughey and Mr Garret FitzGerald.

He joined Sinn Féin and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1950 and was interned for two years by the Irish government in the Curragh, during the IRA Border campaign of 1956 to 1962. He also served a number of prison sentences in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin, one for six months for failing to give an account of his movements. In 1962, following the collapse of the IRA Border campaign, he was elected president of a then very isolated Sinn Féin, which later became Sinn Féin The Workers Party.

Mr Mac Giolla served as Lord Mayor of Dublin from 1993 to 1994 and remained a member of Dublin Corporation until 1998.

History will record Mr Mac Giolla as a man of great principle, personal courage, a champion of the poor and the disadvantaged, who played a central role in trying to wean the Republican Movement away from violence.

He is survived by his wife May (née McLoughlin, former member of Sinn Féin and Cumann na mBan, latter the women’s section of the IRA), his sister Evelyn and nephews and nieces.

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