Sunday 25 April 2010

Death of former NUJ general secretary Harry Conroy who led union through Wapping dispute

Harry Conroy who was general secretary of the NUJ from 1985 to 1990 has died aged 67.
Conroy was general secretary during the turbulent days of the Wapping dispute when many News International NUJ members crossed picket lines after the Fleet Street print unions were locked out of Rupert Murdoch's new plant in the Docklands.
Conroy was also NUJ FoC at the Daily Record when Robert Maxwell realised his long ambition to become a press baron by buying Mirror Group Newspapers shortly after midnight on Friday 13, July 1984. The NUJ was furious as there had been plans to float MGN. Conroy described the Maxwell takeover as "a nightmare come true."
After working as a hospital trainee laboratory technician, Conroy joined the Scottish Daily Express in Glasgow in 1962 as an editorial copy boy; and the following year moved to the features department as a junior sub. In 1964, he left for the Daily Record as a reporter and remained there until 1966 when he joined the Scottish Daily Mail. He returned to the Record in 1967 as a reporter, and two years later was apponted financial correspondent.
Conroy was described by The Scotsman as "one of the finest reporters of his generation" and was said to be equally comfortable rubbing shoulders with mobsters, police officers and captains of industry.
Scottish NUJ organiser Paul Holleran said Conroy was "a man of principle and integrity" and "a fine journalist". He added: "Harry always tried to build bridges, always tried to get on with people, even when he disagreed with them. He would always talk to people, negotiate."
The NUJ was deeply split by the Wapping dispute and Conroy was defeated in the 1990 election for general secretary by Steve Turner, the Daily Mirror FoC, who campaigned against union militants and opposed the NUJ's policy of seeking mergers with other media unions.
After being NUJ general secretary, Conroy was appointed campaigns director of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, edited the Catholic Observer and undertook PR work for charities. He also wrote on business and finance for The Herald and Evening Times in Glasgow.
His funeral begins with 10 o'clock Mass next Friday (April 30) at St Bride's Church, Cambuslang, and then to Rutherglen Cemetery, Mill Street, Rutherglen, at 11.30am.
  • In 2008, Harry Conroy strongly criticised Newsquest's plans to merge the editorial operations at The Herald, Sunday Herald and Evening Times and make the journalists on the three papers redundant and reapply for their jobs. In a comment piece on allmediascotland, he said: "We are talking here about more than a business, we are talking about an integral part of the democratic process. It is now more important than ever that Scotland, with its own parliament, is served by a diverse and high quality media. Newsquest have been accused before of treating The Herald in particular as just another regional paper. It is not. It serves a nation with its own legal system and a parliament which legislates."
  • NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear: "Our thoughts are with Harry's beloved wife Margaret and their family at this sad time. He will be greatly missed by a wide circle in journalism, politics and beyond who valued his integrity, his wisdom, and also his generous friendship. Harry will be remembered by generations of journalists as a powerful advocate for improved pay and conditions and media freedom".
  • Picture: How Press Gazette reported Harry Conroy's election as general secretary of the NUJ in July, 1985.


    Anonymous said...

    I am a nephew of Harry’s. He leaves us with many great memories. For us, he was someone to aspire to. His influence touched us all. His immediate and extended family will miss him dearly.

    Anonymous said...

    My uncle Harry was one of the best. Family gatherings wont be the same without him. Still cant believe he has gone. He will be missed greatly by all his family and friends. God Bless Harry.

    Anonymous said...

    Harry Conroy was a visionary trade unionist whose efforts to modernise the National Union of Journalists were frustrated by the self-styled left, ironically opening the way for his defeat by the right. His contribution inspired others to continue the fight. He should not be forgotten. Kieran Fagan