O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990.

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Gerald O'Reilly was born in 1903 in Navan, County Meath, Republic of Ireland. He served in the Irish Republican Army as a young man, and after the treaty with Britain and partition in 1922 he continued to fight with the uncompromising nationalists as a member of the 4th Northern Division, IRA. After being confined to Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, he emigrated to America in 1926. In New York City, he became a conductor on the Interborough Rapid Transit subway line. Through his activities in several Irish nationalist clubs he came into contact with Michael Quill and others who were to be founding members of the Transport Workers Union of America. He was an active member of the Union from its beginning in 1934 and served on its Executive Board in the early years and later as a full-time organizer for IRT conductors. He continued his radical nationalist activity as a member of the Republican Congress, founded in 1934, as head of the United States committee to free Irish Republican Frank Ryan, imprisoned by Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War, and as a leading member of New York's James Connolly Society. He married Helen Beardsley in 1932 and had one daughter. He died in Long Beach, New York, on August 11, 1990.

From the description of Papers, 1934-1988. (New York University). WorldCat record id: 477249579

Gerald O'Reilly was born in 1903 in Navan, County Meath, Republic of Ireland. He served in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), and after the treaty with Britain and partition of Ireland in 1922, continued to fight with the 4th Northern Division, IRA. After being jailed in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, O'Reilly immigrated to the United States in 1926. He spent his first two years in the U.S. working in a Yonkers carpet factory until he was hired as a conductor on the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT) subway line in New York City.

Still active in the Irish nationalist organization Clan na Gael, O'Reilly and fellow Irish transit workers--many ex-IRA members like himself--began to train their political acumen and energy upon immediate concerns: the harsh conditions which they were experiencing at work. Soon they were discussing ways to effect change for all transit workers, an estimated fifty percent of whom were Irish emigrants. Inspired by Irish nationalist, labor activist, and martyr, James Connolly, O'Reilly, Michael Quill, Austin Hogan, and others gradually built enough support among workers to found a labor union. The Transport Workers Union (TWU) was established in 1934, with Quill as the union's long-reigning president.

O'Reilly served on the TWU's Executive Board in the early years, and was made a full-time paid organizer for IRT conductors during World War II. During this period, he played a key role in challenging racial discrimination in the transit system. He also continued his Irish nationalist activity as a member of the Republican Congress, and as head of the U.S. committee to free Irish Republican Frank Ryan, who had been imprisoned by Franco at the end of the Spanish Civil War. In 1946, O'Reilly, who was also chairman of the Fordham American Labor Party Club, ran as the American Labor Party candidate for Congress in his Bronx district. In the late 1940s, when Quill was endeavoring to sever TWU ties to the Communist Party, O'Reilly was fired from his union position. A few years later, he was reinstated to his former post.

O'Reilly died in Long Beach, New York on August 11, 1990.

From the guide to the Gerald O'Reilly Papers, Bulk, 1944-1947, 1934-1988, (Bulk 1944-1947), (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Archives of Irish America Pamphlet Collection, 1843-1992 Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
creatorOf Gerald O'Reilly Papers, Bulk, 1944-1947, 1934-1988, (Bulk 1944-1947) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Sean Prendiville Papers, Bulk, 1920-1997, 1818-1997, bulk 1920-1997 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
creatorOf O'Reilly, Gerald, 1903-1990. Papers, 1934-1988. Churchill County Museum
referencedIn Sean Cronin Papers, Bulk, 1983-1986, 1932-1996, (Bulk 1983-1986) Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Archives of Irish America. corporateBody
associatedWith Connolly, James, 1868-1916 person
associatedWith Cronin, Sean person
associatedWith Forge, Maurice, 1902-1990 person
associatedWith Interborough Rapid Transit Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Irish Republican Army. corporateBody
associatedWith Irish Republican Army. 4th Northern Division. corporateBody
associatedWith James Connolly Society (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Prendiville, Sean. person
associatedWith Quill, Mike. person
associatedWith Quill, Mike. person
associatedWith Quill, Shirley, 1918- person
associatedWith Republican Congress (Ireland) corporateBody
associatedWith Ryan, Frank, 1902-1944. person
associatedWith Santo, John person
associatedWith Transport Workers Union of America. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Spain
New York (State)--New York
New York (N.Y.)
Subject
Labor leaders--Portraits
Collective bargaining--Transport workers--United States
Collective labor agreements--Transport workers--United States
Transport workers--Labor unions
Political prisoners--Ireland
Transport workers--Labor unions--New York (State)
Irish Americans
Collective bargaining
Railroad conductors
Radicals
Irish Americans--New York (State)--New York
Collective bargaining--United States
Communists--New York (State)
Irish Americans--New York (State)
Labor leaders--New York (State)
Political prisoners
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1903

Death 1990

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