Diplomat recalls playing poker with Glen Barr and Austin Currie in England after Ulster Workers’ Strike

A senior retired diplomat has recalled playing poker with the Derry loyalist Glen Barr at an impromptu card school in England not long after the Ulster Workers’ Strike.

Wally Kirwan, a retired senior official at the Department of the Taoiseach, revealed he and and the late civil rights leader Austin Currie had run into the Waterside loyalist at a meeting of the British-Irish Association in 1974.

Mr. Barr, who died in 2017, had been Chair of the Ulster Workers’ Council Coordinating Committee, during the mass loyalist strike against the Sunningdale Agreement in 1974.

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“Immediately after the Ulster workers’ strike, we were over at a meeting of the British-Irish Association in either Oxford or Cambridge, and one of the people present was Harry Murray, who had been the chairperson of the committee that presided over the Ulster workers strike, and another one there was Glen Barr, who was involved in that as well.

Glen Barr (centre) at an Ulster Defence Association (UDA) press conference with Tommy Lyttle and John McMichael.
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"One of the things that happened was a big poker school and I remember Senator Currie’s [Emer] father playing with these formidable characters who had been in charge of the strike, and there was a kind of macabre joke as to who was going to collect the winnings,” Mr. Kirwan told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr. Barr played a key role in bringing the north to a standstill in May 1974 when loyalist workers’ downed tools in opposition to the Sunningdale power-sharing Executive in which John Hume was briefly Minister for Commerce.