Fond memories of my NI Labour Party comrade David Bleakley

David Bleakley, who died on Monday, aged 92.  Picture Pacemaker Press Intl
David Bleakley, who died on Monday, aged 92. Picture Pacemaker Press Intl

Re. the passing of David Bleakley, David was the most inspiring teacher I had at Methodist College, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a man I was proud to canvass for in my teens and university years in the old Northern Ireland Labour Party

He was a very young shipyard worker when, in a barber’s, he saw a story in Picture Post headlined ‘A Miner Goes to Oxford.’

He became a graduate of Ruskin College, Oxford, and was a tutee of another east Belfast man and Oxford don, C S Lewis.

Lewis once asked the young David: “Davy, what would Heaven look like?” in an Oxford seminar. David was flummoxed, so Lewis smiled and said: “Oh, Davy, it would be like the countryside of County Down of course.”

David was a true democratic socialist and Christian socialist whose days as a Labour MP at Stormont were distinguished and admirable.

I visited him in a retirement home seven years ago and he was ailing and I am glad I made the farewell journey. RIP old comrade.

The NILP was the only truly multi-class non-sectarian political party before and after the Troubles. It was destroyed in part by the fake ‘liberal’ big house unionist.

Terence O’Neill, who feared its rise, and deeply damaged by the descent of many working class Catholics and Protestants into sectarian voting. That progressive party drew votes from both Protestants and Catholics, almost in direct proportion to their representation in the electorate.

No party, even Alliance, has matched that since. I treasure my young political memories of working alongside party members from both communities, in solidarity.

Good times, which I know David Bleakley wanted to see again.

Michael HC McDowell OBE, Washington, DC