Some people travel a distance, grow tired and abandon the task; others like the late Marcus Murray continue until the end. Some find responsibility onerous and avoid commitment but Marcus accepted challenge without hesitation. He was a man who understood that accommodation with flawed institutions leads in time to assimilation into these same institutions and this eventually becomes administration. He often repeated the lesson taught by James Connolly that only the working class can or ever will deliver a sovereign independent republic. Only the working class has the desire to deliver, because that class can find no beneficial accommodation with any system that falls short of a sovereign independent workers’ republic.
Marcus was not a man to change his mind because of fashion, nor would he alter his opinions to court popularity and he certainly did not alter his fundamental beliefs in order to win profit. Yet, let no one say that he had a closed mind or was unwilling to contemplate change. He did so but only on the basis of rational argument or empirical fact.
Empirical facts such as those that was so obvious in the county and state into which he was born. This was a region that had been for long ruled by a landed aristocracy notable only for its arrogance and contempt for ordinary people. It was a part of the country that also knew the reality of life within an undemocratic Orange State.
There are times when reasoned argument gains no purchase on the ruling class. At such times patience and forbearance cease to be a virtue. On such occasions the moral axis points towards action. Marcus Murray rejected the rotten status quo and refused to endorse the blandishments that would satisfy a privileged few. Marcus Murray joined the Irish Republican Army and participated within its ranks as a guerrilla fighter. He was an armed guerrilla, making war on the Empire.
While active in the IRA Marcus was captured in March 1981 along with his comrades the late Seamus McElwain and James Tierney and imprisoned in Long Kesh. He participated unsuccessfully in the 1983 escape and served the remainder of his sentence.
Marcus was more than just a guerrilla. He was a revolutionary imbued with the spirit of socialist republicanism and drew on the well-established principles of Marx and Lenin. Marcus Murray recognised that the state or the status quo protected by the state cannot be recalibrated to serve anything other than that for which it was designed. This was the uncompromising position he adopted 30 years ago when he let it be known that his politics were those of communist republicanism. At this time he helped form the League of Communist Republicans in Long Kesh and called for the rebuilding of a Republican Congress, a view that remained his political philosophy until the end of his life.
Marcus remained a firm socialist republican after his release from prison when he moved to Sligo where he participated enthusiastically in the radical politics of that town and district. As Marcus often pointed out; the struggle for an independent sovereign workers Republic is, in the final analysis, a class struggle. It is not a conflict with former comrades nor is it a conflict with those of any religion, race or nationality. It is instead a struggle against all those forces that prevent the working class organising society in such a way that the vast majority of people, which is the working class, enjoy the benefits of the wealth that this earth can and does provide.
Marcus knew only one definition of freedom; that of Connolly and Clarke. This is not freedom to participate in the administration of British rule in Ireland. Nor is it freedom to act as revenue collectors for capitalism’s bankers and financiers. It is not the freedom to exchange one master for another. The freedom sought by Marcus Murray was the freedom to allow Ireland’s hard working people govern themselves in the interest of all the people for the good of the working people.
Marcus was a remarkable man in so many ways and remarkably, he retained until the end the iron self discipline and steely grasp on reality that characterised his life. A comrade visited him in hospital, days before he died, found him phoning political opponents instructing them not to attend his funeral. And his funeral was a humanist service during which family members spoke lovingly about his life in his native Fermanagh and later Sligo and concluded with friends and comrades singing The International. Mourners, directed by his old comrade James Tierney, carried red flags and the Starry Plough to his graveside, while local taxi colleagues formed a guard of honour along the route to the cemetery.
Marcus left a precious legacy. He taught the value of integrity and courage and that adhering to principle is always justified, that the real revolutionary makes no concession to opportunism or is deflected by personal gain. He was what a socialist republican should be.
Marcus Murray (1960-2016) is survived by his wife Louise, their four children, Gary, Taylor, Chelsea and Kelly, his father Vincent, four brothers and three sisters.