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RIP Eddie O’Hara, MP & Parthenon Marbles campaigner

I first met Eddie O’Hara in 2001. Since then, I have got to know him well through out common interest of the return of the Parthenon Marbles, and he later chaired the Marbles Reunited Committee [1] of which I am a member. On standing down from Parliament in 2010, he became Chair of the BCRPM [2],

He was tireless in his support for the issue, regularly raising it in Parliament, as well as speaking at conferences around the world in support of restitution.

During recent years, he had respiratory problems, but he never let this stop his campaigning, despite the fact that it clearly made travel far more difficult thatn it had once been.

Eddie passed away on Saturday 28th May 2016. His wisdom and vigour will be missed by all who knew him.

Eddie O'Hara MP and Parthenon Marbles campaigner

Eddie O’Hara MP and Parthenon Marbles campaigner

Guardian [3]

Eddie O’Hara obituary
Labour MP with a passion for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles
Julia Langdon
Tuesday 31 May 2016 17.22 BST

Eddie O’Hara, the former Labour MP for Knowsley South, who has died aged 78, had a lifelong passion for Greek scholarship and culture and was a fervent enthusiast for the long-running campaign for the reunification of the Parthenon marbles.

An irony of his years of dedication he gave to this cause was his good fortune to be alive to pursue it, as he had been personally identified as a military target when doing national service with the British Army in Cyprus in the late 1950s. A keen sportsman and athlete, he took a daily run outside the army camp, always along the same route in the Cypriot countryside, a routine that was observed by the Eoka terrorists who were fighting to free their island from what was termed “the British yoke” and who mined his path. Had the booby-trap not been discovered in time, the Greek Cypriots would have been denied the subsequent support O’Hara demonstrated as one of the most tireless and articulate advocates of their political interests.
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The death in 1994 of the Greek singer and politician Melina Mercouri, who was strongly identified with the controversy about restoring to Athens what were then known as the Elgin marbles, prompted an early day motion tabled by O’Hara in the House of Commons, urging the case for reunification. It was the first of nine such attempts he made during his two decades as an MP to secure publicity and all-party political pressure for the campaign. He organised and attended countless meetings in the UK and Greece, and won considerable personal respect from Greek government officials and archaeologists. In 2005 he became chairman of the Marbles Reunited campaign and in 2010 was made chairman of what is now called the British Committee for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.

He had learned his love for the classics at Liverpool Collegiate school from where he won a place at Magdalen College, Oxford. Of his schooldays he later said: “I was a little lad from docklands who went to a high pressured academic establishment and of course I was bullied.” But he overcame this by being good at football and helping other children with their homework.

He was born and brought up in Bootle, Merseyside, the son of Robert and Clara (nee Davies). His father was a carter and the family home was a terraced house beside the dray yard with wagons and shire horses stabled next door. This heritage remained important to him throughout his life and he stayed true to his Liverpool roots. He was a local school governor, a member of the management board of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society and a loyal supporter of Liverpool FC.

He graduated in 1962 and began his career teaching Latin and Greek for three years at the Perse school, Cambridge, and then at Birkenhead school (1966-70). He was a fluent Greek speaker and entranced his pupils by translating Beatles lyrics into Latin. He secured a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) in 1966 and an advanced Diploma of Education from the University of London in 1970. The next 20 years were spent as a lecturer in his native city at CF Mott College of Education, the City of Liverpool College of Higher Education and Liverpool Polytechnic (now Liverpool John Moores University).

During this time he became involved in local politics as a member of Knowsley borough council from 1975 until his victory at the 1990 byelection when he entered the Commons. Knowsley South was considered one of the safest parliamentary seats in the country but was abolished after boundary changes in 2010 when George Howarth, the former MP for Knowsley North, was chosen as Labour’s candidate for the new seat of Knowsley. In the Commons, O’Hara was a diligent MP and a member of a wide range of parliamentary groups reflecting the variety of his interests and enthusiasms.

He was a delegate to the Western European Union and the Council of Europe and a member of the Speaker’s Panel of Chairs. He presided over committee debates on several finance bills and the legislation to ban hunting; he was strongly in favour of the ban. He was also an opponent of whaling, breeding birds to shoot, the culling of badgers and trimming the beaks of egg-laying hens.

In 1962 O’Hara married Lillian Hopkins and they had three children, Terence, Barry and Helen. They separated amicably in 1998 and after Lillian’s death, he married Margaret Gilbert (nee Gartside) in 2014. She survives him, as do his children and four grandchildren.

A diagnosis of pulmonary fibrosis five years ago restricted some of his activities but did not prevent him from travelling to Greece whenever possible. He described himself as “an unreconstructed classicist” and was disappointed but not surprised by the last Labour government’s failure to act on the marbles question. He reflected: “Tony Blair had many strengths and many interests, but I don’t think the marbles was one of them.”

• Edward O’Hara, politician and campaigner, born 1 October 1937; died 28 May 2016