Republican News · Thursday 11 November 1999

[An Phoblacht]

Volunteer Eamonn O'Doherty

The first time I met Eamonn O'Doherty was in 1984. I, as the unexpected dinner guest at a friend's house, had my first exposure to the articulate, witty, hugely well informed and always interesting republican that was Eamonn. Many years would pass before any of us would laugh as much again.

Born in Carrick-on-Suir in 1940, Eamonn became a volunteer in Oglaigh na hÉireann in the early 1960s and for his adult life was unerringly committed to the republican cause. He served and worked for the republican movement from volunteer to the highest leadership levels. At one stage he even joined the British Army's Parachute Regiment as part of his duty to the republican cause.

Eamonn could, like so many others in the 1960s, have taken his education and considerable skills into the 26-County workforce and profited from the growing economic boom. He didn't. He recognised the injustice of partition and took action.

His was a deeply intellectual commitment to social justice and national self-determination. His years of active service throughout Ireland and especially in the border counties is a testament to this. How many Fermanagh men would have come to liberate Tipperary?

He was imprisoned in both Ireland and the USA. Eamonn's eventual release from jail in New York was due solely to the efforts of his friends there and in Ireland who didn't forget a comrade in need.

Eamonn rarely talked about himself, but he could converse eloquently on a variety of other subjects, history being his favoured topic, whether it was the Cromwellian War in Tipperary, the American Civil War or indeed the history of the IRA. His illustrated history of the IRA was banned from Aer Rianta bookshops.

Some of us younger Turks in An Phoblacht were genuinely honoured to have met, talked with and most importantly laughed with Eamonn.

One story Eamonn did tell was of his time on remand prison in New York, where a leading mafia member, Jimmy `the Gent' Conway, was also being held. Conway's character was played by Robert de Niro in the film Goodfellas. Eamonn was still baffled as to why Conway insisted on paying for some of Eamonn's meals. Inmates who had money could buy meals in. Eamonn was the only other inmate Conway would talk to, but he was penniless and dependent on prison food.

For us the answer was simple. Dinner and conversation with Eamonn O'Doherty was something no one would pass up.

Eamonn's years of active service also took him to international and sunnier climes - his friends outside Ireland will miss him greatly. One such comrade told me of Eamonn's legendary sleeping powers. Literally nothing could wake him from sleep and then he proved, that yes, he could sleep through an earthquake. While others were watching their lives flash past, Eamonn slept the peaceful sleep of the just and brave.

It is hard to think of Eamonn as being really gone. Though I only met him on a few occasions and many others can probably tell much more of his legend, my head is still full of Eamonnisms, his laugh, his interest in what you were doing.

Eamon's illness and death came quickly and his many friends will regret that their chance to say goodbye to a true friend was denied. I think though that wherever republicans are gathered with good food, interesting books, conversation and above all, laughter, Eamonn will be there too.

I measc laochra nGael a raibh sé.


Alan Heusaff

Alan Heusaff, a founder member and longtime Secretary General of the Celtic League, has died at his home in Spiddal, Co. Galway, aged 78.

Nationalists from Scotland, Brittany and Mann joined family and mourners at his funeral in Spiddal, County Galway, where his coffin was covered with the flag of his native Brittany and several wreaths with the symbols of the Celtic nations.

Alan was born in Brittany in 1921 and was active in cultural movements as a youth, eventually joining the Breton National Party in 1938. In the wave of French xenophobia that followed the Second World War and the hostility towards minorities in France, he left the country and, with many other Bretons, settled in Ireland. After a University degree course, he joined the irish Meteorological service, with which he remained until his retirement.

The Breton community in Dublin immediately became the focus for inter-Celtic organisation and an embryonic inter-Celtic movement was established, publishing An Aimsir Ceilteach. Formed in 1947, this functioned for several years. In 1961, the pan-Celtic movement reorganised with the formation of the Celtic League at Rhos in Wales. Alan Heusaff was a founder and the first Secretary General of the league and remained in that role for 25 years.

He was a tireless campaigner for all the Celtic countries and meticulous in ensuring that meetings of the league were held on a rotational basis annually in all the countries, whatever the logistical problems. He also established the inter-Celtic quarterly journal CARN, which has been produced now for almost 30 years and provides information in both English and all the Celtic languages on the Celtic scene.

In 1969 and 1970, as political convulsions wracked the Six Counties and Brittany, more conservative elements within the League tried to move the organisation away from political work and towards a more cultural bent. Alan Heusaff was to the fore in ensuring that such moves did not succeed.

Latterly, as Secretary General of the league's international branch, he carried on liaison with the Celtic diaspora and also acted as contact for the league's United States branch.

Alan Heusaff was fortunate in that he was able to see in his lifetime some of the devolutionary moves which have occurred in the Celtic countries. However, he believed that the only future for the Celtic countries was as independent partners in a Celtic confederation.

In the days immediately prior to his death, he was liaising with me over the arrest of activists in Brittany, campaigning against the waveband reallocations being forced on an Irish language radio station and also promoting the rights of a Scottish child to be taught through the medium of Gaelic. He recognised the value of the big issues without forgetting the small. He saw and appreciated the worth of the large Celtic countries without forgetting the efforts to maintain political identity, culture and language in the smaller countries like Mannin (Isle of Man) and Kernow (Cornwall).

Alan Heusaff may have died, but the ideals he epitomised and the campaign for freedom within the Celtic countries that he and the other founders of the Celtic League promoted will go on until their goal is realised.


Celtic League Secretary General

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