NUJ pays tribute to Jim Eadie
The former Irish secretary and proud trade unionist has died.
4th June 1929 - 2022
James (Jim) Eadie who has died aged 93 has been described as ‘an accidental union official’. He was the first secretary of the National Union of Journalists in Ireland and was for many years a leading figure in the Irish trade union movement.
His appointment in 1966 as the first Irish Organiser and later Irish secretary of the National Union of Journalists, UK and Ireland (NUJ) arose from the decision of the appointed candidate to decline the job in a curious dispute over the funding of the post.
Much of the influence of the NUJ’s impact on employment, education, training and media policy in Ireland can be credited to Eadie, who had become actively involved in the NUJ at Independent House where the chapel (office branch) was undergoing a revival not long after his arrival from the Roscommon Herald, Boyle, where he began his career.
He was one of the young Turks who pushed for a more militant approach from the NUJ in the early 1960s and was elected as Deputy FoC (shop steward) to future broadcasting legend Frank Hall, whom he succeeded as FoC when Hall secured a job in RTÉ.
From 1927 the NUJ had served Irish journalists from the London head office at Acorn House but in 1964 decided to appoint a full-time Organiser based in Dublin.
In 1965 Pat Nolan of The Irish Times was offered the job. Nolan tentatively accepted the offer but placed a condition on the appointment.
He proposed that Irish members pay a levy to cover his salary as a means of ensuring that he – and those he served, would not be ‘beholden’ to Acorn House. The NEC would not accept Nolan’s pre-condition, the post was advertised in 1966 and Eadie emerged as the successful candidate.
His appointment coincided with the opening of a NUJ office in Liberty Hall, newly-opened headquarters of the ITGWU.
Eadie was a tough negotiator, grudgingly admired by employers. Under his direction national agreements were reached with the Provincial Newspapers Association of Ireland.
He took pride in the fact that the NUJ was the first union in the Republic to lodge a maternity pay claim to a group of employers. Afterwards he was told by Mrs Lily Nerney of the Roscommon Herald that the employers had conceded a claim for twelve weeks on full pay in the belief that it would not be a substantial burden ‘because we won’t be employing many women anyway’.
The foundation of RTÉ presented significant organisational challenges but, as in the national newspaper sector, Eadie was blessed with strong, lay activists.
Instinctively a contrarian, Eadie was always uncomfortable with the idea of unions becoming too close to powerful figures and was critical of social partnership agreements, as Irish Secretary and as a member of the Executive Council of the ICTU.
Jim Eadie was never afraid to present the unvarnished truth, even if that made him unpopular with the full-time union leadership, chapel officers, his own members or what he regarded as the trade union establishment.
Underestimating the Roscommon man was always a mistake, as many employers found to their cost. He often used his considerable wit to disarm opponents in argument.
He commanded affection and loyalty among members across the union: his genuine interest in and commitment to the welfare of members and their families earned him enormous respect. He had a prodigious memory and at a 90th birthday celebration hosted by the NUJ in June 2019 recalled in precise detail a litany of disputes and individual cases in which he had been involved.
Always interested in education, Eadie was directly involved in moves to establish the first full-time journalism course in Ireland at the College of Commerce, Rathmines. He served as Chairman of the Irish Committee of the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ).
He was present in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dublin on 12thSeptember 1966 when Education Minister Donogh O’Malley, used an NUJ training event to announce free access to second level education. Eadie had been tipped off in advance that a major announcement would be made.
Jim Eadie retired as NUJ Irish Secretary on 1st July 1994. During his tenure, NUJ membership in Ireland increased from 788 to 3,456, testimony to his diligence, organising abilities and capacity to work with and inspire others.
James ‘Jim’ Eadie was born in Stonepark, Roscommon town on 4th June 1929, son of James and Mary Eadie (née Farrell), the second eldest in a family of three boys and two girls
Eadie was educated at Roscommon CBS and earned a reputation as a tough, uncompromising half forward when lining out on the winning Gaelic football team in the Connacht Colleges Cup Final in 1947/’48 school year against Summerhill College, Sligo.
On leaving CBS he took a secretarial course in Roscommon Vocational School and, through sporting connections, secured a probationary job in the Roscommon Herald, Boyle. He joined Independent Newspapers in 1956 as Group Reporter.
Eadie married Bridie Reynolds, a secretary in the Roscommon Herald, on 17th June 1958 and set up home in Dublin. They had four children, Deirdre, Caroline, Colm and James.
In retirement they lived in Rathfarnham.
He was a lifelong Labour member and in retirement was a founder member of the Senior Citizens Parliament and the NUJ Retired Workers committee.