Keeping the buses running during the years of the Troubles was a priority which came at huge personal cost. For the busmen the experience was attritional: the entire fleet of buses was destroyed and 17 men were killed simply for turning up for work.
Protecting your members from death is not a normal part of a union official’s brief, but it was his number one priority. Setting aside their differences O’Callaghan and union colleagues worked alongside Werner Heubeck and management to keep the drivers safe.
O’Callaghan also represented the ‘General Workers’ in manufacturing, tackling issues affecting pay and conditions with the same passion. But it was to the busmen that he devoted most of his energies; making sure that pensions were extended to all bus employees, wages were increased, and ensuring that a threat of privatisation was defeated.
Even in retirement he did not rest, becoming a strong advocate for retired union members. The issue of busmen’s pensions came to dominate Eugene’s final years. Frustrated at what he saw as mismanagement, incompetence and indifference, he campaigned to rectify an historical oversight in respect of their pension contributions.
Blunt, resolute and always on the side of the worker, O’Callaghan spoke truth to power in a real way – to benefit the lives of those whom he served