Peadar O'Donnell (1893-1986) was an Irish novelist and political activist and a major figure in the history of the Irish.

Born in Donegal, he left teaching to become a full-time organiser with the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union in 1918.

Peader led a successful strike at Monaghan asylum in January 1919 when he led the workers in a week long successful occupation of the institution.

With the outbreak of the war of independence O'Donnell joined the IRA. He opposed the Treaty and was among the IRA executive when the Four Courts were shelled in 1922.

Imprisonment and hunger strikes followed before he escaped from the Curragh in 1924. For the next ten years he served on the Army Council and Executive of the IRA, arguing that class politics should be the dynamic of republican politics and the IRA should adopt the role of a Connolyite citizen army.

As editor of An Phoblacht from 1926 to 1929 he pursued his left republican agenda, focussing particularly on the land annuities campaign, which he himself initiated as a grassroots popular campaign.

A leading figure in the failed 1931 Saor Eire experiment, he eventually split from the IRA with the formation of the doomed Republican Congress in 1934.

He went to Spain on a writing holiday in 1936 and was accidentally caught up in the revolution and civil war. His experiences formed the basis of his book Salud! An Irishman in Spain.

Although no longer a member of any political organisation, O'Donnell remained an important figure in Irish political and cultural life.

He published the last of his 7 novels in 1975, and died aged 93 in 1986.

Presented and produced by Proinnsias O'Conluain
(First broadcast 1983)

An Irish radio documentary from RTÉ Radio 1, Ireland - Documentary on One - the home of Irish radio documentaries