TANAISTE Eamon Gilmore has lead the tributes to the late Dr Donal Nevin, the Limerick native who rose through the ranks of the trade union movement to become general secretary of ICTU during the 1980s.
Dr Nevin, who was also a distinguished historian of the Irish trade union movement and its forefathers, passed away at the age of 89 on Sunday and is to be laid to rest following funeral mass in Dundrum, Dublin, this Wednesday.
Born in Limerick in 1924, Dr Nevin was from O’Connell Avenue and was a past pupil of CBS Sexton Street. He joined the civil service in the 1940s and also began a lifelong involvement with the trade union movement that culminated in his term as general secretary of Congress from 1982 to 1989. He served on many voluntary and state boards, including those of the Irish Hospice Foundation and the Combat Poverty Agency and was a founding member of the ESRI in the 1960s.
“I think Donal will be best remembered for his generosity of spirit; his commitment to the trade union movement and to politics of the left; and his strong sense of social responsibility and of social justice,” said the Tanaiste after hearing of Dr Nevin’s death on Sunday.
“He gave generously of his time, not just to state bodies and agencies, but also to voluntary and campaign groups. Organisations such as Combat Poverty, the Irish Council of People with Disabilities, the European Social Fund Committee and the Higher Education Authority, all benefited from Dr Nevin’s contribution and input over many years.”
SIPTU leader Jack O’Connor commented that: “Donal was a man of great intellect and absolute integrity. He always called it as he saw it and never shirked the responsibility of delivering the message, however unpopular. Despite his meek temperament and pleasant demeanour he stood full square in the tradition of Jim Larkin.”
Dr Nevin’s scholarly works on Larkin and James Connolly are regarded as definitive sources on the Irish labour leaders.
Mike McNamara, president of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions said Dr Nevin “had to have been a person of the highest calibre to have risen to the highest echelons within the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and but for him and his likes we might not have a trade union movement today”.
Dr Nevin received an honorary doctorate from UL in 2001 on the same day as Dr Brendan O’Regan, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem were conferred - all of whom are now deceased.
He is survived by his wife Maura and daughter Anne.