A loyal trade unionist, JOE LAW campaigned for peace, freedom and socialism all his life, writes Brian Campfield
IRELAND, and the north of Ireland in particular, has lost one of its stalwart communists and trade unionists with the sudden and untimely death of Joe Law on September 28, one month before his 70th birthday.
Joe came from Belfast’s radical Protestant tradition and fought against the sectarian state for workers’ unity and for socialism.
In this he was from the same mould as Henry Joy McCracken and the other northern United Irishmen of the 18th century.
An industrial worker who was active as a shop steward in the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU) Joe was an executive committee member of the Belfast Trades Council in which he was active for 30 years.
He worked in a number of heavy engineering companies, including Mackie’s Foundry, Shorts and Rolls Royce.
But it was his initial experience as a young seaman in the 1960s which opened his eyes to the injustices of the world.
His experiences of apartheid when his ship docked in South Africa set him on a journey which led to his active trade unionism and membership of the Communist Party of Ireland.
Following redundancy as a riveter with Shorts Aircraft factory in Belfast, Joe made a major contribution to confronting sectarianism as a tutor and educator with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) anti-sectarian unit, Counteract.
He then became a founding member of Trademark, an organisation which later became recognised by ICTU as its official partner in confronting sectarianism.
Through engaging with trade unionists and managements in a wide range of employing bodies, Joe, in his unique and direct way, successfully challenged long established practices and encouraged people to confront their own prejudices.
Trademark also developed a political economy education programme which is highly regarded by trade unionists north and south of the border.
Unlike many, Joe also understood imperialism and this understanding was at the centre of all his work.
Joe also co-operated with his comrades in the Hope Not Hate Glasgow campaign and contributed immensely to strengthening relations between comrades in Scotland and the north of Ireland.
A Junior Orange Lodge member in Belfast in his early youth, Joe Law travelled a monumental distance and was proud of the contribution of the Irish members of the International Brigades who valiantly fought the fascists in Spain.
He was active in anti-apartheid solidarity work, confronted sectarianism on hostile shop floors in difficult and dangerous times and held the banner high for peace, independence and socialism.
He has left us much too soon. Our sincere sympathy to his wife, partner and soulmate, Brenda.
Ní bheidh a leithéid arís ann (There will never be the likes of him again).
Brian Campfield is president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions