“A gentle giant… A big man with a big heart… Witty, sensitive, and telling it straight…”
These were common sentiments expressed about Jason Weir on social media after the very sad news that he passed away, on 5 February, aged 54 years. Comrades from Militant Left (Committee for a Workers International in Ireland) and further afield, and particularly those of us who campaigned alongside Jason in his hometown of Ballymena, Co Antrim, were also greatly saddened to hear about his untimely death.
Jason grew up in a working-class family, from the ‘Protestant side’ of the community divide in Northern Ireland, albeit he was always adamantly non-religious. After a short, unhappy stint in a small left group, Jason joined the Labour and Trade Union Group/Young Socialists in the mid-1980s. Still a teenager, he soon became a supporter of the Militant newspaper, and committed to its banner-head slogan: ‘For workers’ unity and socialism’.
In many ways, Jason joined our ranks as an already very rounded person. He strongly opposed sectarianism and saw the future in cross community, working class-based politics. He had an acute sensitivity for the oppressed and marginalised in society. Unusually for the time, Jason was not afraid to call out anyone who he felt was displaying sectarian, racist, sexist, misogynist, or homophobic attitudes.
Along with others from a Protestant and Catholic background, Jason was part of a very active branch of the Young Socialists/Militant supporters in the Ballymena and wider area. During those years, Jason was involved in cross community, anti-sectarian campaigning, building for public events around the high-profile heroic struggle of Liverpool City Council, local anti-apartheid work, and the anti-Gulf War movement, in 1991, to name but a few.
The young Ballymena comrades also had a vibrant social life. With his trademark DMs and bomber jackets, and his love of The Smiths, Jason’s strong musical and fashion tastes were unambiguous.
Over several years, Jason helped canvass in our election campaigns in mid-Ulster and Belfast, when we put forward socialist, anti-sectarian, trade union candidates. His height meant our election posters could top the telegraph poles!
Not one for making speeches at branch meetings, which were often held at his then-family home in the Galgorm area of Ballymena, Jason would often sum up a discussion with his earthy, dry wit, much to the amusement of his comrades. Once when the branch was discussing the various sectarian-based parties and forces we were up against, Jason pithily remarked: “It’s like being kicked, all at once, from all directions”!
At the same time, Jason had a serious, intelligent approach to ideas and political programme. He participated in the internal CWI discussions and organisational conclusions following the collapse of Stalinism and changed world relations.
Jason was well-known around Ballymena partly because of his exceptional height and his physique, the result of regular gym workouts. His imposing build belied a gentle nature but it came to very good use, at times. At a public meeting in Belfast against the far right and racism, a gang of neo-Nazis burst through the front doors intending to break up the meeting but quickly turned on their heels when they saw Jason standing on the stair landings.
Jason found a job with Northern Ireland Water in the 1990s, where he remained for the rest of his working life. His aversion to social media or drawing any type of attention to himself meant that it was difficult for comrades to keep in touch with Jason over the years. However, whenever any of his old comrades and friends bumped into Jason they always found him enquiring about how comrades were doing and about the work the CWI in Ireland and beyond.
Tragically, Jason developed long-term health problems and passed away in just his 55th year. Jason will be greatly missed but we will always remember this ‘modest giant’ who was able to look far beyond our current world and see the possibility of a different way of organising society for lasting peace, justice, and equality, for all.
Militant Left, as well as comrades from Jason’s active days with the Ballymena Young Socialists, offer deepest condolences to Jason’s mother, June, his partner, Denise, his stepson, Jordan, and to all his wider family, friends, and workmates.