Heron, Archibald (‘Archie’) (1895–1971), socialist and trade unionist, was born in Portadown, Co. Armagh, into a presbyterian family, probably one of seven children of Samuel Heron, a physician and surgeon, and his wife Bessie (née Beck). He was educated locally before moving to Belfast in 1912. In Portadown he had come under the influence of the journalist Seán Lester (qv) and in Belfast he joined the IRB. Under the influence of Bulmer Hobson (qv), he became involved in the Fianna group of young republicans. He moved to Dublin in 1914 but his appointment as an IRB organiser led to his return to Belfast to conduct a campaign against the exclusion of Ulster, or any part of it, from home rule. In 1915 he began work for the IRB in Cavan but returned to Belfast in 1916 to organise the Volunteers for rebellion. A friend and disciple of James Connolly (qv), whose daughter Ina he married in 1920, he was acquainted with many of the prominent labour and republican leaders of this period, including Seán Mac Diarmada (qv), James Larkin (qv), and William O'Brien (qv). He claimed to have introduced Connolly to Tom Clarke (qv) in the latter's shop, and that they had a ‘very friendly conversation’ (BMH. W. 507) and agreed to put their differences on socio-economic matters aside in favour of the republican cause. During Easter week he brought about 150 Belfast Volunteers to Tyrone as ordered, but they were ordered to return to Belfast. Later in the week he attempted to mobilise Volunteers in the Clogher mountains to attack the local RIC barracks, but news of the surrender in Dublin forced them to disperse. He was later secretary to the provisional Volunteer executive during its reorganisation and was entrusted by Michael Collins (qv) with bringing arms from Derry to Dublin. He served as vice-commandant of the Fingal Brigade from late 1916 to 1918.
A central figure in the formative years of the ITGWU, he became an organiser for the union in 1919, and afterwards was only tangentially involved with the Volunteers. However, he still maintained that members should involve themselves in the struggle for independence, insisting the union needed to support not just workers’ rights but any organisation in the fight for freedom of every kind. He resigned his position in May 1921 and in October of the same year was appointed editor of the union's newspaper, Voice of Labour. Heron strongly supported the Anglo–Irish treaty, later urging republicans to enter the dáil to oppose what he considered the repressive social and economic policies of the Cumann na nGaedheal government. In March 1924, in an attempt to establish a platform for economic and social issues, the Labour party selected Heron to contest the Dublin Co. by-election where he polled 15 per cent of the votes but came last of the four candidates. In 1925, in order to improve party organisation, the Labour Party and Trades Union Congress sought to end its reliance on local trades councils for political work and established local party branches, and Heron was appointed the party's political organiser. By July 1926 he had established forty-one branches, and in the same year insisted that the British general strike (May 1926), and workers’ demands for nationalisation, were events the Irish labour movement could learn from in the context of mixing industrial and political struggles. Referring to himself as the party's ‘travelling candidate’, he contested elections in some unlikely labour constituencies, including Mayo North, and in June 1927 – two months after his resignation as political organiser – stood unsuccessfully for Labour in the Sligo–Leitrim constituency.
Remaining committed to the idea of the essential unity between the political and industrial organisation of labour, he opposed the separation of the party and Trade Union Congress in 1930. By that date he had been working for two years as general secretary of the Civil Service Clerical Association, but the Department of Finance, unhappy that a non-civil-servant should be an official of a staff association, refused to recognise his position. In 1937 he was elected Labour TD for Dublin North-west, but lost his seat in the general election of the following year. The defeat was no doubt attributable to his statement in the dáil that he believed in the right of every man to practise the religion of his choice or not to practise any religion if he did not wish to, which led to his being denounced as an atheist in certain catholic churches. In 1940 he was appointed secretary of the Irish Local Government Officials Union, despite the fact that some of its executive were worried about his radical reputation. After the split in the Labour party in June 1943 over ITGWU affiliation, Heron, who had spent little time at his desk, was another casualty of Labour divisions, and in June 1944 was dismissed from his position, though his dismissal was opposed by the Dublin corporation branch of the union, where he enjoyed considerable popularity.
An energetic, engaging, and gregarious character, Heron was an outstanding election campaign organiser, and his close friend William Norton (qv) appointed him Labour party director of elections for the Wexford by-election campaign of December 1945. The seat was won by Brendan Corish (qv) against the odds, and Corish credited Heron with the victory. Heron stood unsuccessfully for the party in Dublin North-east in 1948, the last occasion he put himself forward as a candidate for the dáil, but he continued to work on the campaign trail for William Norton in Kildare, and also canvassed for Proinsias Mac Aonghusa (1933–2003) in Louth in the 1965 general election. A strong supporter of the United Arts Club, with a passion for music, Heron also served as honorary secretary of the Civil Service Alliance. In 1950 he was appointed labour relations officer in the Department of Local Government, and subsequently filled the same post in the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Department of Labour. He died in a Dublin hospital on 10 May 1971, survived by his wife and two sons: Séamas, a lawyer in Zambia, and Brian, known for his political activities and membership of the National Association for Irish Justice in the US. The ITGWU refused to allow Heron's body to lie in state in Liberty Hall, Dublin, on the night before his funeral, despite a request by the leader of the Labour party, Brendan Corish. His body was donated to the RCSI for medical research.