A Liberties Legend, Cllr John Gallagher is quietly laid to rest

By James Godson and Christopher O’Flaherty

WITHOUT his family in attendance, or the public to guard his honour, John Gallagher’s coffin arrived at Mount Jerome, Harold’s Cross on April 2nd, no doubt an unbefitting send-off to one of Dublin’s most celebrated and hardworking public servants.

Gallagher, late of The Coombe and a long-time Labour Party activist, died peacefully on March 29th in Hollybrook Nursing Home Inchicore, reportedly with complications of Covid-19.

Born in the 1930s amid the poverty of the south Inner city, he waged a life-long fight for the preservation of Dublin city’s heritage, and that of the Liberties specifically. He was at the forefront of the Save Wood Quay campaign, to protect Viking heritage being buried by Dublin Corporation office buildings.

He took part in the sit-in protest known as Operation Sitric at the Wood Quay site in 1979, preventing construction from beginning.

While Wood Quay goes down as a defeat, there were victories too. The saving of local landmarks, including the Tailors Hall, now home to An Taisce, was brought about by the same spirit.

He was also an important force behind the Liberties Community Information Centre on Patrick Street from the 1980s onwards.

In local election campaigns he refused to put up posters, “out of respect for the environment”, but was nonetheless elected to Dublin City Council again and again. It was reported in 2013 that he had not claimed any expenses as a councillor in 13 years.

Before and during his time on the council he highlighted the lack of sports facilities in the inner city, as well as the ongoing drug problem in the area.

Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the people of the Liberties could not line the streets to see him off – though many, such as Imelda May, took to social media to mourn him.

John Gallagher served his community well and will always be a name the people of the Liberties will hold close to their heart. Once restrictions are lifted, undoubtedly many locals will be out to give the Liberties Legend the send-off he deserves.