New ICTU boss recalls growing up in Donegal

DONEGAL man Owen Reidy has been ratified as General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

He has over 24 years full-time experience in the trade union movement, starting his career as a official in SIPTU in the west of Ireland.

“I am 50 now, so I have spent half my life as a union official, I am very lucky to be doing a job that I passionately believe in,” he told the Donegal News.


He has occupied a range of roles in the union representing and organising workers across sectors.

He was appointed as a SIPTU’s Divisional Organisers in 2013 when he managed and ran the unions Transport, Energy, Aviation and Construction Division.

In 2016 he took up the position of Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU with primary responsibility for the Congress in the North.

He has coordinated the work and voice of the trade union movement in the North in response to Brexit, political stalemate, and the current cost of living crisis.

Born in Dublin, he says, “My Dad was a Dub’ and my Mum was a Derry woman, with roots in West Donegal” he said.

“I am from Donegal, but I had the misfortune to be born in Dublin,” he joked.

His family moved to Donegal in 1977 and lived in Raphoe, Dunfanghy and Moville. They moved a lot due to his father’s job in the banking sector.


“From the age of five until I went to university – my formative years – Donegal was home.”

The next generation of the Reid family are also proud of their Donegal roots.

“My son is Dublin born and bred but he is Donegal mad, and loves Michael Murphy,” he said.

Owen’s father still lives in Inishowen, so he visits the county frequently.

“The older I get the more I appreciate it, when I was 18 I was looking to get away to go to college. Now I think Donegal is a great county and I am very proud to be from there, irrespective of where I happened to be born.”

He spoke of his late grandfather, Stephen McGonagle and how he was a massive inspiration to him.

He also devoted his life to the trade union movement and was the President of ICTU and a Senator for the Irish Labour Party.

“My grandfather was a big influence in my life, and I probably wouldn’t be in this career, were it not for his influence in those formative years.”

He was ratified as General Secretary last week and it was a particularly poignant moment, with “a lovely symmetry”.

He was born in 1972, the same year his maternal grandfather was appointed president of ICTU. “50 years ago to the year I was born, my grandfather Stephen McGonagle was sitting right beside the seat I am now occupying,” he said.

Stephen McGonagle was born in Derry, but his roots are in the beautiful Owey Island off the coast of Kincasslagh.

“My grandfather used to say this is where he got his trade unionism from. The “Meitheal” or partnership in the community and the way people worked together was vital, because they couldn’t live in isolation. They had to work together for society on the island to work, that never left him. That was his political philosophy that he got from West Donegal.”

“And that will never leave me either,” he said.

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