Greek Cypriot fighter who fell in love with Ireland and Irish history
George Ioannou: August 23rd, 1933 - April 8th, 2015
George Ioannou, who has died aged 81, was one of the leading figures in the Eoka struggle against British rule in Cyprus between 1955 and 1959.
Ioannou had been imprisoned in Nicosia central prison. but due to the large number of Eoka men in that prison and the rioting that followed hangings there he was among those transferred to England, where he met IRA prisoners and his relationship with Irish republicanism developed.
Ioannou immersed himself in Irish literature and history and was particulary impressed by the writings of James Connolly, which he translated into Greek for the benefit of his fellow Cypriot prisoners.
These books later took pride of place in the library of his Nicosia home following his release in 1959, when the Zurich agreement ended the hostilities in Cyprus.
Among the Irish prisoners Ioannou met were Cathal Goulding and Sean Mac Stiofáin, later to become leaders of the Official and Provisional IRA respectively.
His brother Nicola, an 18-year-old student, came to Dublin to meet Seán Cronin, then chief of staff of the IRA, to plan a joint escape attempt from Wakefield prison but was killed in mysterious circumstances on his return to England. Archbishop Makarios, president of the newly independent state, was to officiate at his burial at home in Cyprus.
Following his release, George Ioannou returned to Nicosia and took up a position with the new administration. He married an English woman, Betty Jane Davis, and they kept open house for many years for Irish and Palestinian activists.
Ioannou and his family made many trips to Ireland and he was particularly moved by his visit to Kilmainham Gaol. He also loved going to Tara and the Boyne Valley.
An animal lover and keen gardener, he spent many hours tending to his exotic plants and fruits. A man with a big heart, he is survived by his son, Nicola, daughter, Elena, grandchildren, and many brothers and sisters.