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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Red Over Green File 8 Therese O'Connell

My latest Red Over Green file, looks at another well known Kiwi Irish republican, Therese O'Connell.


A good Catholic girl from New Plymouth, Therese O'Connell came to Victoria University, Wellington in the late '60s and promptly fell in with a bad crowd.

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.

10 Comments:

Anonymous barry said...

Trevor as a reader of your blogs I must congratulate you on such an enormous database of the Left.

I wonder if you could briefly clarify for me, and no doubt others, the essential differences between these labels which you apply in your column to the various leftist scum. [Socialist and Communist I am familiar with].

Please define these:
Maoist
Trotskyist
Marxist
Leninist
Stalinist

11:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the memories come flooding back.

I remember Therese used to share a flat with a bloke who worked for me back in the early seventies. It was in a small side street off Tasman street in Wellington. Cant remember the Name. It was a hot bed of anarchists. The bloke who owned the house called himself Jesus Christ and stood for parliament. Unlike the real Jesus this one was a drainlayer. Cant remember his name either. It was nearly forty years ago.

We had some fun times. Though to be honest I was just there to try and bonk the chicks. Didnt have a lot of luck though because they saw me as Flash Harry but they enjoyed being driven to political meetings in my 69 Ford Thunderbird.which was a class car in those days. They never saw the irony, or perhaps they did.

My mates name name was Graeme Rua. He and his girlfriend (Iris) went off to England for their OE and got arrested by MI5 or 6 and charged with treason and stood trial in the Old Bailey. It seems they planned to kidnap Princess Anne and hold her for ransom. The idea was to use the ransom money to feed the worlds poor. Graeme was never one to think small.

Anyway Graeme jumped bail leaving behind his girlfriend Iris to face the music and disappeared into the unknown to avoid going to prison. He should have stuck around because the case was thrown out of court.

I often wonder what happened to him?



Dirk.

9:30 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Will do Barry

Dirk-fascinating story-can't say I've ever heard of Graeme Rua, perhaps some other reader may have details.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know everything do you Trevor.

Jesus Christ was Rick Stacey.

He bought that little cormner section house for three grand.

Graeme Rua,Graeme Masters he was originally. His parents made him change his name. For a while he mused about becoming Grame Trotsky to piss the trots off.
What happened to Graeme is none of your business.

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suggest if Graeme had possessed the courage of his convictions and stayed to face the music his life may have been alot simpler. But aint hindsight a wonderous thing.

Graeme changed his name for his own reasons. From Masters to Rua in honour of the Maori prophet. I doubt his parents could have made him do anything.
I remember he was convicted of saying FUCK during a Vietnam war demonstration in downtown Wellington.
Thats when he meet Iris. Iris was his probation officer, iris fell victim to his considerable charm and they became an item. Iris was given the ultimatum, Rua or her job. The rest is history.

Anon, as for Graeme's where abouts. I suggest your comment is pretentious considering you dont know me. And in case its slipped your notice, all this happened 30 years ago. Get a life dude!

Dirk.

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Steve Nice Guy Northland said...

Trev: a salute for discovering Dirk.

Dirk: a salute for bringing my memories of the Old Wellington flooding back. So evocative your post. I flatted in Tasman Street in fact, Newtown end. Opposite the Blood Bank. Loved Wellington.

Managed to score a few dinners and drinks at Bellamys too. Very exciting for an early 20s "first-past-the-post" democrat. Not courtesy of Robert David Muldoon obviously. He wasn't well known for giving gin away you appreciate....

Trev: well done on your piece about Therese O'Connell - what a freedom-fighter name that is ! Note I decline to say profile - it addresses only a part of her entirety and fair enough. You haven't got all the space in the world.

Anyway, I remember her. She would appear in multi-coloured, doubtlessly op-shop garments, she could give it 10 in the mouth department at the drop of a hat, and she was very, very funny !

There's a sideshow to every aspect of life Trev, including politics. I mean, the folks at 1600 are your prime example. Not to say this gutsy person was "the" sideshow. She was a colourful, memorable figure in the 70s Wellington number.

Barry (above): Not sure about you mate. Could you be a fellow-traveller ? It'd be nice, and I'm leaning towards it, if your pejorative use of the word "scum" is sharp irony. I've lost my copy of "Burkes Peerage - Communist World" otherwise I could answer your queries.

Kia Ora.

5:53 PM  
Anonymous omnipotent said...

what is it with you blokes regarding trev and his claimed capacity for knowing everything??

9:02 PM  
Anonymous drongo said...

blowing myself (metaphorically)up to twice my size,i was aquainted with ms t.o'connell when she lived(lives?)in Newtown in the early 90's.apart from a cutting wit,and rather predictable combustibility concerning almost anything male/patriarchal/capitalist/white middle class/etc,she was simply another feminist clone.

9:12 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Dirk and Steve-great to read your reminiscing-seriously.

Omnipotent-when did I claim to know everything?

9:12 PM  
Anonymous omnipotent said...

Apologies!A misunderstanding,I was attempting to make that very point,as far as I'm aware you've never claimed to know everything,thankfully,however a couple of your correspondents have implied this.

10:17 PM  

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