Industry mourns passing of key advocate

Darryl Danielli
Thursday, September 10, 2020

Industry leaders are mourning Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Print Group (APPPG), who passed away last month after a long illness.

Lord O'Neill spoke regularly at the annual APPPG reception
Lord O'Neill spoke regularly at the annual APPPG reception

Born in Edinburgh in 1945, Martin O'Neill became a Labour MP in 1979 with the highlight of his long parliamentary career being made the chair of the trade and industry select committee in 1995. He held the post until he retired as an MP in 2005, the same year he was awarded a life peerage.

He was described by Unite the Union as “ a good friend to the printing industry and to print workers”.

According to Unite, his connection with print began when he represented the interests of the Society of Lithographic Artists, Designers and Engravers (SLADE) in the House Of Commons.

That association continued when SLADE merged with the National Graphical Association (NGA) in 1982, during which time he supported the print unions in disputes with News International and Today founder Eddie Shah.

When the GPMU was formed by the merger of the NGA and Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (SOGAT) in 1991 O'Neill became a key member of the GPMU parliamentary group.

According to Unite deputy general secretary Tony Burke, O'Neill’s role as chair of the trade and industry select committee opened many doors for the print industry.

"He always had time to meet print workers and print industry figures and those who met him were impressed by his interest in the industry and his courtesy," said Burke.

"Beside print he was would talk about Hibernian FC (he had been a director of the club) and his love of jazz and cinema."

Through his strong ties to the industry and role as co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Print O'Neill regularly attended BPIF Members' Day events in Parliament.

“We’re all saddened to hear of the passing of Lord O’Neil. He was a hugely engaging and supportive advocate of print, always ready to help where he could, interested in both the sector and all those within it,” said BPIF CEO Charles Jarrold.

“I particularly recall his involvement and enthusiasm for the BPIF’s first group of leadership and management graduates on a exceptionally hot summer day back in 2015. He was an exceptional supporter, and will be greatly missed by us all.”

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