My latest Red Over Green file, looks at another well known Kiwi Irish republican, Therese O’Connell.
In 1969/70, O’Connell was a member of Victoria’s Socialist Club, at that time an uneasy mixture of Maoists and Trotskyists.
O’Connell was also the first president of the Wellington Women’s liberation front.
According to an article she wrote for the Socialist Club’s “Spark” in 1970 (Volume 2, number 1);
“Women’s Lib has grown or been affected mainly by the New Left groups. The outstanding theme repeated throughout the lib literature is rejection of the institutions, ideologies and practice of capitalist society. The goal of women’s lib is not women’s equality within present-day society, but through a complete transformation of this sick and dying social order. . . The abolition of capitalism is a pre-condition for the total emancipation of women. . .
[in WL literature] the family, marriage, child-rearing and romantic love are dissected, derogated, denounced and in some cases dismissed, as valid pursuits for today’s women. . . These are the same fundamental concepts that revolutionary socialists have been fighting for since the founding of scientific socialism 120 yrs ago by Marx and Engels. The Women’s Lib and the Revolutionary Socialist movements have mutual interests.”
The same year, O’Connell was active in the shortlived branch of the Communist Party’s youth wing, the Progressive Youth Movement. She wrote an article for the PYM’s “Rebel” number 10 on the Women’s liberation Front;
“At our first meeting there were 12 women and six males. . .We outlined the general aims . . .
(a) promotion of womens rights i.e. equal pay for equal work
(b) re-evaluation of womens role in society . . .
From this meeting we have grown to a membership of 25 women. The most significant move has been to exclude all males from organisation, with no speaking and no voting rights. . . The setting up of day care centres, liberalising of present abortion laws, getting contraceptives available to all those who want them, and the re-education of women are but a few items on the WLF (Wellington) programme.”
In August 1970, O’Connell was on the convening committee of the Second Radical Activists Congress, held in Wellington. She chaired a session on the “The Exploitation of Women”, representing the Women’s Movement for Freedom and the WLF.
By the late ’70s, O’Connell was a leading Maoist activist in the Wellington Marxist-Leninist Organisation and its front group, the Working Women’s Alliance.
When WMLO joined forces with Auckland and Waikato comrades to form the Workers Communist League in 1980, O’Connell joined that organisation as well.
In the early ’80s O’Connell was a leading feminist and trade unionist, active in the WCL dominated Clerical Workers Union and the Wellington Trades Council.
Shw was also a keen Irish republican, by 1982 she was one of several WCL members active in the local branch of H Block/Armagh (later known as Information on Ireland)
O’Connell put her musical talents to the service of the Republican “carz” as vocalist for the H Block band, “Ourselves Alone” (Sinn Fein), later known as “The Fenians”.
The band was a fixture in Wellington for several years-propagandising for the cause in local pubs and performing in universities in gigs often organised by the WCL.
O’Connell did well in the union movement but was defeated in 1987 for the first vice presidency of the CTU, by the Socialist Unity Party’s preferred candidate Angela Foulkes.
In recent years she organised the English as a Second Languague home tutoring service in Wellington.
For years O’Connell also moonlighted as half of “Glory Box”, a well known comedy duo with fellow radical “Pinky” Agnew.
The Agnew component of “Glory Box” was often seen on TV in the early ’90s doing wicked impersonations of then Prime Minister, Jenny Shipley.
In 2004 O’Connell was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, by the Labour government for her services to the trade union movement.
Nothing yet for her services to Marxism-Leninism and Irish republicanism.