Bert Ward: Understood the complexities of Ireland

Working-class intellectual Bert Ward, who died aged 94 in August, 2016, played a key role in changing simplistic attitudes towards Ireland in the British Labour movement.

Born in Middlesbrough, he served as a gunner on north Atlantic convoys during the second world war. In 1948, Bert joined the Communist Party, which he said “introduced me to books, to serious reading and study”.

During the 1970s he worked as a national organiser for the British Council for Peace in Vietnam. In 1974, following a visit to Belfast with the CP London District, he joined the party’s Irish advisory committee and edited the committee’s monthly information bulletin.

In 1991, Bert joined the British Labour Party. Convinced of the need to include unionist concerns in any future settlement in Northern Ireland, he was national secretary of the cross-party peace group New Consensus, later New Dialogue. His close friendship with his local MP and later Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, ensured his thinking made a long-term contribution to the Irish peace process.

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