H

Heatley Bobby

Bobbie Heatley

 

Born in staunchly loyalist east Belfast of Protestant background, Bobbie Heatley recalled being taken as a young boy by an uncle to have his photograph taken wearing an Orange Order sash. However, he was to take a very different political path once he was introduced to politics as a member of the Young Workers' League in Belfast. He became responsible in the 1950s for organising youth contingents from Ireland to Warsaw and Moscow under the auspices of the World Federation of Democratic Youth.

 

Originally working as a carpenter, he emigrated to London in the early 1960s, where he joined the Hampstead Young Communist League, the Movement for Colonial Freedom and the Connolly Association.

 

On returning to Belfast some years later he became involved in the northern Ireland civil rights struggle, joined NICRA's Belfast executive and served as the organisation's public relations office - a position he held at the time of the 1972 Bloody Sunday civil rights march and massacre in 1972.

Left: Heatley - note the picture of Desmond Greaves (see separate entry) on the mantlepiece. 

Having already provided oral testimony, surviving members of NICRA's executive had been meeting regularly over the last few years and had only recently completed their written submission to the Saville enquiry into the Bloody Sunday events.

As a republican and a socialist from a working-class Protestant area of Belfast, where hostility to the 'fur-coat' unionism runs deep, Heatley made an important contribution to debates about the civil rights strategy by bringing his insights and experience into the discussions of those from a very different background, not least of all, nationalists and republicans in west Belfast.

 

Along with Belfast solicitor Kevin McCorry and others he was also a founder member in the late 1980s of the Campaign for Democracy, a small but influential civil rights group based in Belfast.

Although he contributed many articles to the Irish Democrat over the years, it wasn't until 1996 that he agreed to become the paper's 'official' six-county correspondent of the Irish Democrat.  

He died in Belfast, aged 69, by which time he had earned a reputation as a prominent Irish civil rights activist and socialist republican.

 

David Granville