One of the most faithful supporters of the Irish republican cause in San Francisco died on March 2 at the age of 82. Joe Walsh was a leading activist in the fight to free Bernadette Devlin McAliskey’s daughter Roisin. His political roots went back to the Irish civil war of 1922-23.
As a young child, Joe lived near Ballyseedy, in County Kerry, the scene of some of the worst atrocities against Irish republicans during the Irish civil war. He recalled Free State forces raiding his family home when he was a young child.
Joe was staunchly pro-labor and antiracist. He was one of the most active members of the San Francisco Campaign for Justice for Roisin McAliskey, a committee that was dedicated to human values and open to people of all political persuasions, including the left.
Bernadette Devlin was Joe’s ideal of an Irish nationalist fighter. Therefore, he felt a special identification with the cause of Roisin, who was persecuted by the British in reprisal for her mother’s criticism of the so-called Irish peace process, the British-backed settlement of the Northern Irish conflict.
Joe was active intellectually until the end, always interested in learning more about Irish history. He was a faithful attender of the classes on the history of Irish nationalism given by Open Forum and Socialist Action. Just before his death, he became very interested in studying the new forms of imperialist exploitation underlying Ireland’s so-called Celtic Tiger economy.
Hopefully Joe’s example of study and thoughtfulness will be followed by other dedicated Irish activists today in a period that is particularly difficult for the Irish national struggle.