Plaque for veterans of Spanish war

Marie Louise McCrory in the Irish News, September 16, 2006

A plaque is to be unveiled in Belfast city centre today in honour of Irish volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

The plaque, which has been erected in the John Hewitt Bar in Donegall Street, is dedicated to the XVth International Brigade.

Twenty men from Belfast joined the fight against the fascist army during the war of the 1930s.

They were part of a 79-strong group from across the north who travelled to Spain following an attempted coup d'etat by army generals, including Francisco Franco.

The right-wing forces were backed by the international fascist powers of the time, Hitler's Germany and Mussolini's Italy.

Many of the Northern Ireland volunteers died during the bitter three year long battle.

The International Brigade Commemoration Committee (IBCC) has now organised the unveiling of a plaque in their honour.

Bob Doyle, from Dublin, will be among those who will be present at the unveiling ceremony today.

Now aged 92, Mr Doyle fought as a member of the International Brigade. During the war, he was captured and held in the monastery of San Pedro, which had been turned into a concentration camp.

He was released in 1939 as part of a prisoner exchange.

He later joined the British Merchant Navy and served in the Second World War.

He met his Spanish wife Lola in England and they lived in London where he worked as a printer after the war.

He later returned to Spain and took part in the underground anti-Fascist resistance.

He now lives in London with his son Robert.

Mr Doyle has now written a book, Brigadista - An Irishman's Fight Against Fascism, which will also be launched at the event.

Kevin Doherty, secretary of IBCC, said Mr Doyle was the last remaining Irish International Brigadier.

"This is an opportunity for people from both sections of the community here to learn and celebrate their common history," he said.

Other Irish volunteers included Belfast men Joe Boyd and Fred McMahon, Lower Falls men, Dick O'Neill and James C Donegan, Henry McGrath, Bill Beattie and William Laughlin from the Shankill, and Jim Haughey from Lurgan.