George Harrison, Irish American activist, 89

A capacity crowd filled the mid-town Manhattan auditorium of SEIU 1199, Oct. 20, to honor the memory of George Harrison, a lifelong Irish Republican, anti-imperialist activist, socialist, and People’s Weekly World supporter. Harrison died on Oct. 6 at the age of 89.

Although Harrison was involved in people’s struggles since the age of 15, he rose to international prominence in the early 1980s when he and four other Irish-American activists were arrested in a CIA frame-up for allegedly smuggling weapons to Irish Republicans resisting the British occupation of Northern Ireland. The trial took place during the murderous, anti-Irish policies of the extreme-right British government led by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Because of the blatant nature of the frame-up, the trial resulted in the acquittal of all five defendants.

Harrison was an activist’s activist, who saw the cause of the Irish people in the context of a broader struggle. Speaker after speaker at the memorial spoke of Harrison’s unwavering commitment to the Irish struggle, anti-imperialism and the support of people’s struggles all over the world, from the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua to the African National Congress’ struggle to free South Africa from apartheid. “No task in the service of justice was too small or trivial,” said lawyer Mary Pike. “His rich legacy is how to live a principled existence.”

Newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin said Harrison was also dedicated to the Cuban people and their revolution. Harrison also admired Cuban President Fidel Castro, Breslin said.

Spanish Civil War veteran Moe Fishman described Harrison’s support for the Spanish Republic during the 1930s and his leading role in conceiving and financing a monument to Irish International Brigade martyr Tommy Patton.

Irish radio show host Sandy Boyer said Harrison was the man who tied the broad anti-imperialist movement together and that “George hated racism every bit has much as he did British imperialism.”

Speakers repeated a unified theme that the best way to honor Harrison is to defeat Bush and the extreme right in November.

As the memorial ended and the crowd dispersed, people walked into the New York City night, motivated and energized to do just that.

— Gary Bono (gbono@cpusa.org)