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Late NI Labour veteran David Bleakley an inspiration and champion of true multi-class, non-sectarian socialist politics

Letter of the day

Regarding the passing of David Bleakley (News, June 27), David was the most inspiring teacher I had at Methodist College in the late-1960s and early-1970s. He was 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 with the headline '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, CS 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 Co 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 I am glad I made the farewell journey. RIP old comrade.

The Northern Ireland Labour Party 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 has matched that since. I treasure my young political memories of working alongside party members from both communities. Good times, which I know David Bleakley wanted to see again.

michael hc Mcdowell obe

Washington, DC, USA

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