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Born in 1898, the son of a small farmer in Cushendall, Co. Antrim, Sean Murray's grandfather had been a United Irishman in 1798. The three generations of his family spanned the most tumultuous years of Irish history, 1798, 1848, 1867, the Land League and 1916-23. Although showing signs of being a brilliant pupil at Glenaon National School, he had to leave it at the age of 14 years to work on his father's and uncle's farms. His teacher, "Master" McNamee, took a continuous interest in his education and introduced him to classical literature.
As a youth, Sean Murray became interested in the national and labour movements. He joined the IRA becoming Commandant of the Antrim Battalion, which engaged in attacks on police barracks. Whilst on his way to join a Flying Column, with his Adjutant Malcolm McKeegan, in 1920, he was arrested by the British forces and brought to Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast, and later transferred to the Curragh Internment Camp, from which he was released on the declaration of the Truce that preceded the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921.
In December 1922 he met Peadar O'Donnell for the first time; thereafter they became close friends and comrades-in-arms on the Republican Anti-Treaty side in the Civil War. Afterwards he emigrated to Britain, working for a period in the London docks and becoming a delegate to the London Trades Council and then Secretary.
When he returned to Ireland, he was organiser of the "Irish Worker League" which had been formed in Ireland by "Big Jim" Larkin. In 1928-31 he was a student at the Lenin International School in Moscow; when he returned to Ireland, he became Organiser of the Irish Workers' Revolutionary Groups.
He was nearly burned alive when its headquarters, Connolly House at Great Strand Street. Dublin was set alight by a religious-incited mob in March 1933. At the foundation of the Communist Party of Ireland, in June of that year, he was elected General Secretary. In October, he was served with an expulsion order from the territory of Northern Ireland which he refused to recognise. He continued to make many secret journeys there but was eventually arrested and jailed.
Murray was General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland from 1933 to 1940 and was its National Organiser from then until his death at the age of 63 in 1961. A man of great intellect, he was an outstanding Marxist-Leninist scholar with the specific ability to apply his revolutionary knowledge to the Irish conditions. He was also a prolific journalist, editor and pamphleteer.
Sources: Morning Star 12th September 1994; Michael O�Riordan `The Connolly Column'