Service to mark death of union 'martyr'

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 08:45 26/03/2014

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One of New Zealand's three "martyrs" of the trade union movement will be remembered in Palmerston North tomorrow.

A service at the workers' memorial at Memorial Park will mark the 30th anniversary of the death in Wellington of Ernie Abbott.

Mr Abbott died when a bomb detonated inside the Trades Hall in Wellington on March 27, 1984. Nobody has been arrested for his murder.

Unions Manawatu convenor John Shennan said there was speculation for weeks after the bombing about who was responsible. Mr Abbott's death came at a time of deep animosity between the union movement and prime minister Rob Muldoon's National Government.

The bomb had sat in a briefcase in the Trades Hall all day and was set off when Mr Abbott, a cleaner, went to move it into an office overnight. Mr Shennan said had it gone off earlier, when more people were in the hall, there could have been a much larger death toll.

Tomorrow's service is at 4pm and will feature speeches from Manawatu union leaders. Those taking part will then head to a nearby bar to toast Mr Abbott at 5.19pm, the time the bomb went off.

The other two "martyrs" of the trade union movement are Fred Evans, killed on November 12, 1912, during a goldminers' strike in Waihi, and Christine Clarke, who died on New Year's Eve 1999 after she was run over while on a picket line at the Port of Lyttelton.

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- Manawatu Standard

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