A Valued Tutor
The death of Workers’ Party member Arthur ‘Art’ McMillen on 6th September 2014 marked the end of a long life dedicated to democratic, secular and socialist politics.
Art was born in Ton Street in the Lower Falls, a street that truly deserved its nickname ‘Red Row’. The McMillens were one of a large number of republican families in the street who supported the Republican government in its fight against the fascist General Franco’s Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War. The revolutionary republican politics he imbibed in this environment shaped the rest of Art’s life.
As a teenager, Art became involved in political activism through the-then Republican Movement, joining the Fianna in 1945. Imprisoned during the Border Campaign, Art was among those in the Crumlin Road gaol who discussed the need for a new way forward.
Following the failure of the Border Campaign, Art supported the turn towards socialism and political, social and economic agitation taken under the leadership of Cathal Goulding and Tomás MacGiolla at a national level, and of his brother Billy in Belfast.
Although Billy joked that he appointed Art to work with the Fianna as he could do the least damage there, Art’s role was central to the political development of young members in Belfast. In his education classes, Art stressed the anti-sectarian, secular nature of republicanism as inaugurated by the United Irishmen, and the socially progressive content of republican thinkers from Tone to Connolly and beyond. Art was especially proud of the anti-sectarian message of his brother Billy’s election campaign of 1964, to which Ian Paisley and his supporters, and the RUC, responded violently.
Committed to fighting injustice and sectarianism and to putting power in the hands of the working class, Art and his wife Maureen were both very active in the struggle for democracy waged by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. His political activism saw Art interned in Long Kesh, where he continued to play a prominent role in political education. On his release, he dedicated himself to the political struggle of the Republican Clubs. The murder of his brother Billy by sectarian elements only served to redouble Art’s determination to fight for peace, work, democracy and class politics, and he remained an active member of The Workers’ Party as long as his health permitted it.
Art enjoyed all aspects of Gaelic culture, and had a great interest in history and international politics. His letters on a range of issues of concern to socialists, including the treatment of the elderly, appeared regularly in the newspapers. He is remembered with fondness and respect by his comrades, especially those whose own politics were shaped by his political education classes.
Art McMillen 1930 – 2014