Thomas ‘Jonty’ Johnson
Fiercely independent to the end, Thomas “Jonty” Johnson did not confide his illness to many. Even among those who knew, word of his passing was received with shock and sadness, as no-one expected it would come so soon.
A committed and valued member of the Workers’ Party, “Jonty” was a true character. Well-read, conversant with current affairs and political events, past and present, he was not shy to voice his opinion and view of matters. Always willing to debate, some might say argumentative, he was held in great esteem and affection by all who knew him.
His thinking was shaped by the radical movements of the ’60’s, at home and abroad. Like Peter Pan, Jonty never really left that era and continued to live life with views and behaviour in keeping with the politics, music and culture of that time.
Civil Rights in America, Anti-Vietnam War Protests, the Campaign against Apartheid in South Africa, CND; all played a big part in his life. He moved and mingled with political activists in Belfast and beyond in support of these struggles. Part of a generation who threw off the prejudices of Catholic, nationalist Ireland, he embraced the Republican Movement’s shift to the left.
In the North, he was a staunch ally and confidant to Billy McMillen, Jim Sullivan and Malachy McGurran. He involved himself in the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, Anti-Internment Campaigns, and for campaigns for the removal of slum housing in the Falls.
He devoted himself to working for prisoners and was a founder and editor of the prisoners’ newspaper An Eochair.
Totally committed to his beliefs. He was a Republican in the tradition of Tone, Connolly and Mellowes, holding to Connolly’s dictum, “Ireland without her people means nothing to me”. His political beliefs never wavered despite many setbacks and disappointments.
In recent years, he gave advice and encouragement to new, younger members of the Workers’ Party as he recognised the need for renewal and revitalisation to fulfil the goal of the establishment of a secular, socialist Republic.