The recent death of Brendan Mac Lua, founder of the Irish Post newspaper in Britain, is a great blow to the community there. He was 73. Mac Lua was also one of the first investors in both Irish America magazine and Irish Voice newspaper here in New York. Back in 1984 when the idea of Irish America magazine was first mooted by this writer, Mac Lua alone put his hand in his pocket and put up $40,000 to kick the venture off. He came to the launch in New York. I got to know Brendan well around that time. He was an extraordinary mixture of Irish nationalist and bon vivant who delighted in late night dinners in fancy London hotels. There he would regale all and sundry with tales of the rich and famous, especially in the sporting world, boxing being a particular passion that he knew. He had originally worked for the Gaelic Athletic Association in Dublin, but in 1974 he and a partner started the Irish Post. It soon became the voice of the Irish community in Britain. Helping a start-up publication such as Irish America was a typical act of the Clare man who was a lifelong Gaelic nationalist who defended the Irish community to the hilt in Britain during the worst of the 1970s and 1980s. Those were traumatic times, with IRA bombs exploding in London and in many other places throughout Britain. Mac Lua was fearless in his defense of the Irish community at the time, and his "Frank Dolan" column, where he stood up to the British government time and again, was an extraordinary act of courageous journalism. He especially loathed the PTA, or Prevention of Terrorism Act, that later led to massive miscarriages of justice as defendants were beaten and coerced into making confessions. Many times he was personally threatened after IRA bombings, yet he never wavered. He was the first to take up the cases of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, and the Irish Post was at the forefront of the subsequent campaign. So successful was he that the Irish ambassador at the time, concerned after Garret FitzGerald was elected taoiseach (prime minister) that Mac Lua was too radical, decided to set up an Irish newspaper against him. It was called the Irish Observer, and in its first issue it carried an interview with the ambassador as well as picture of said ambassador with Margaret Thatcher, who he described as a very nice woman or words to that effect. Needless to say the Observer closed after six weeks. Mac Lua also played a leading role in creating an activist Irish community. He was one of the first supporters of Ken Livingstone, who later became mayor of London, and he helped found the Irish in Britain Representation Group, which was a highly effective lobby. In later years Brendan retired when the Irish Post was bought first by the Jefferson Smurfit Group and later by the Cork Examiner. It is still thriving today. Wealthy after the acquisition, Mac Lua needed a driver because of health problems in recent years. The old Republican delighted in hiring the former driver for the Queen Mother to chauffeur him around. It was a typical Mac Lua move. He will be deeply missed. - By Niall O'Dowd
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