The Red "Dubliner" (1984)

Submitted by dalcassian on 20 February, 2017 - 9:57 Author: Sean Matgamna

LUKE KELLY was the one with the broad mouth and the red hair. He died last week at the age of 44, after twenty years with "The Dubliners" at the top of the Irish and international commercial folk scene.

Luke Kelly was also a communist (that is, a Stalinist). He was a communist from way back, from the days when communists were very scarce in Ireland and the tiny Communist Party in the South felt it safer to call itself the Irish Workers Party.

In the mid-'60s, he had some contact with the London-based Irish Communist Group, a rather inchoate organisation of would-be revolutionaries which soon divided into its Maoist, Trotskyist and other elements.

In 1966 he appeared on the election platform of the Secretary of the Irish Stalinist party, Spanish Civil War veteran, Michael O'Riordan.

(This organisation, the IWP, united with the NICP in 1970 to form the Communist Party of Ireland) .

The days when bigoted mobs led by pogrom-preaching Catholic priests attacked Irish communist premises and broke up communist meetings were just about over by 1966. It was still a very brave public stand to make for an entertainer whose bread and butter depended on public favour.

In the repertoire of The Dubliners Kelly sang and recorded songs like "Joe Hill", "there's a valley in Spain" "The Banks are Made of Marble" and other songs of the revolutinary workers’ movement.

I remember a Dubliners' concert somewhere on the Euston Road about 15 year ago, when Luke Kelly played "The Battle of the Somme".

The Battle of the Somme opened in July 1916, soon after the Easter Rising in Dublin, and between July and November well over a million men died. The 'Allies' ~ Britain and France lost 600,000 soldiers to take ten miles of blood-drenched mud. 400,000 of these were British and Irish.

Of the Irish, many thousands of the slaughtered had been members of the Protestant Unionist Ulster Volunteer Force. Others had been in the mainly Catholic National Volunteers. Members of both had joined up at the call of their leaders. Others were forced in by 'economic conscription'.

That was the only time I ever heard this haunting Irish lament for the flower of Ireland's youth, Protestant and Catholic, who were capable of uniting only under the war flag of the British imperialist ruling class and then in the quicklime graves of the Somme and other World War 1 battlefields.

By Fergus Ennis
SO 165
Feb 9, 1984