Why we will mark the 100th anniversary of the Lockout

Posted January 11, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Uncategorized

injury

100 years ago, the heroic workers of Dublin were engaged in an industrial dispute whose origins lay in the gross inequality and poverty under which they and their families lived. Sadly, many of their concerns still exist today. There are still hungry children in Ireland, poverty is still an issue for many families, there are still slum landlords, some employers still fail to recognise our unions, poor political leadership is prevalent. Our economic welfare still lies under the control of a wealthy minority, both native and foreign.

In 2013, the struggle for equality continues

The Spirit of 1913 committee intend to commemorate the Lockout through a series of discussions, events and articles which will highlight the ongoing failure to address the concerns and aspirations of the Working Class in Ireland today, while attempting to offer positive alternatives which may lead to greater equality in the future.

We will be supporting commemorative events organised by others, our activities will be one more contribution. In particular, we want to shine a light on the combative trade unionism which was responsible for so much of what we take for granted today; such as the five day week, paid holidays and equal pay for women.

Your thoughts and views on these issues are welcome.

The road to the Lockout – the Molly Maguires

Posted July 31, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags:

01 ITGWU MOLLY BANNER

The Sean O’Casey Community Centre in Dublin recently hosted a talk on the Molly Maguires, by New York writer John Kearns.

The event was part of “The road to the Lockout” series organised by the East Wall History Group, and was a co-production with Seven Towers, the East Wall based publishers.

Bas Ó Curraoin has produced a video of the entire talk

www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNYwj3-EBDk

02 John Kearns

Not only was the evening itself very successful, but there was also wide spread media interest in John Kearns and the Mollies.   In addition to the audio and video material presented here – John also appeared on the Pat Kenny show; the event was covered on the History Show on Newstalk and promoted on numerous websites.

03 John and Jer O Leary

 

Here are links to some material which we hope you enjoy –

Excellent interview with John Kearns on Near FM Irish History show-

http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/07/09/the-molly-maguires/#.UfV4TdK-krW

Video interview by the Connolly media group immediately before the event –

http://vimeo.com/69839863
04 John and Diarmuid Breathnach

The organisers would like to thank all those who helped promote the event, Scott Miller and SIPTU for loaning the wonderful ITGWU banner, Jer O’Leary and Diarmuid Breatnach for their contributions, Bas Ó Curraoin for producing the video and John Moron for photos.

BLACK 47 “The Day They Set Jim Larkin Free”

Posted May 26, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Music

bb47

Click here to listen to a live recording from Whelan’s in Dublin on November 11, 2006

 

I see what is, i see the way things should be
They made a mistake sending me to jail
Made a worse one setting me free

I see what is, i see the way things should be
Those scabs will regret the day
They set Jim Larkin free.

The sun is blazing, morning’s here
But no light in our eyes
Nothing but fear and apprehension
And their lies

Then down the lane, the big man strides
A force of nature unleashed
And all our doubts dissipate before him
As we follow his lead

I see what is, i see the way things should be
They made a mistake sending me to jail
Made a worse one setting me free

Look up at the stars, throw the light into dark places
You can’t see the heavens above
When you’re down there on your knees

Go on nail me for treason – arrest me for conspiracy
But i know it’s no crime to desire
That my people should be free

‘cause i see what is, i see the way things should be
Those scabs will regret the day
They set Jim Larkin free.

The stars are bleeding, night has come
The city sleeps in tears
Nothing to cling to but each other
Tomorrow, the same fears

The sound of voices in the distance
Messiah is close at hand
Rise up, rise up, my poor afflicted
You too can taste the promised land

I see what is, i see the way things should be
They made a mistake sending me to jail
Made a worse one setting me free

Look up at the stars, throw the light into dark places
You can’t see the heavens above
When you’re down there on your knees

Go on nail me for treason – arrest me for conspiracy
But i know it’s no crime to desire
That my people should be free

‘cause i see what is, i see the way things should be
Those scabs will regret the day
They set Jim Larkin free

Memories of 1913

Posted May 17, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Books

Tags: , ,

Mary Muldowney writing in May 2013 issue of SHOPFLOOR, the paper of MANDATE (the union for bar and retail workers).  Family memories of 1913 uncovered, including relatives of Jim Larkin, Michael Mallin, Rosie Hackett and James Nolan.

Shopfloor1

Shopfloor2

The Dublin Fire Brigade and 1913 by Las Fallon

Posted May 14, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Uncategorized

Tags: ,

fires

Among my collection of Irish fire service historical memorabilia built up over many years I have a few favourite pieces. One is a small booklet which I bought some years ago from a Canadian collector. It is the’ Fifty-first annual report from the chief officer of the Dublin Corporation Fire Brigade Department for the year ending 31st December 1913’. Any of these early annual reports provide a wealth of history for the researcher but the date alone on this one resonates with anyone who has an interest in Irish history and in the history of Dublin.

1913 was one of those turning points in Irish history and is remembered today and commemorated this year for the events of the lockout – the battle to unionise the bottom rung of labour –the transport and general workers.

The Dublin labour world of 1913 was heavily unionised at the top end. Craft workers each belonged to their respective unions and the city firefighters had been unionised in the Dublin Fire Brigademens Union since 1892. ( The 120th anniversary of the founding of the DFBU –the first firefighters union in these islands or elsewhere for that matter -passed unnoticed last year with no ceremony or plaque to mark such an important anniversary in our history – a pity, and another lost opportunity)

book

In 1913 the poor of the city –and this was a poverty stricken city – were the workers who competed at the lower end of the scale, carters, general workers and transport workers including the staff of the city tram system, the Dublin United Tramway Company (DUTC).

The DUTC was owned by the Catholic, Nationalist and very successful capitalist William Martin Murphy. Murphy owned the DUTC but also a host of other enterprises including the Imperial hotel in Sackville (O’Connell) Street,

The Irish Independent, Evening Herald and Irish Catholic newspapers and he had major shares in railway stock not only in Ireland but abroad .

Murphy and many other Dublin employers were concerned at the growth of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. The ITGWU had been founded by James Larkin in 1908 and was growing in strength. Between 1911 and 1913 the union membership grew from 4,000 to 10,000. A series of strikes had raised wages and established the unions reputation as effective organisers. Dublin’s employers looked on uneasily and decided to do something.

tender

In July 1913, three hundred Dublin employers met under the chairmanship of William Martin Murphy and decided to move against the ITGWU. Dublin employers laid down the gauntlet and demanded that workers sign a pledge not to join Larkins union. On 26 August 1913 tram workers walked off the job and the lockout started. Membership of Larkins union or any attempt to join a union not to the liking of the employer would be met by locking out the workers. The tactic was simple and as old as warfare – divide and conquer, and starve out the enemy.

The history of the lockout has been well documented and I don`t intend to cover it here except as it is reported along with the rest of Dublin life that year, within the pages of Captain Thomas Purcells annual report.

The annual report starts, as they all did, with a listing of the fires in the city for that year. There were 245 calls to fires that year, an increase of 26 on the previous year. Of these 146 were fires within the city boundary and 17 were outside the city. There were 55 chimney fires, 1 collapse of houses and 26 false alarms. These bare statistics hide a wealth of history. The lives of sixteen people were threatened by fire that year, of whom twelve were saved by the brigade.

death

The sad tales of the other four were as follows: in Geraldine Street, Mary Carey, 70, was burned and died in hospital when her dress ignited from an oil lamp explosion. In Capel Street, A. Field (gender not given) 70, died of suffocation in bed. In Quirkes Lane, Mary Tunstead, 80, died in hospital after her clothing ignited and finally on Sarsfield Quay, J.Whelan, 70, jumped from a top floor window to escape the flames and died from his injuries.

These sad tales pale however beside the events of 2 September 1913, when in Purcells words:

‘ the brigade worked all night in rescuing some of the inmates and recovering the dead bodies of six persons who lost their lives by the sudden collapse of two four-storied tenement houses in church Street.’

Another feature of the life of the DFB that year was the unusual number of calls to fires outside the city boundaries. Fires in hay and agricultural stores were often thought to be acts of retaliation from locked out farm labourers .On 14 August Lieutenant Myers and the motor engine with a crew of eight, attended a hay fire in Mulhuddart. On both the 18 and 27 September they refused to attend fires in Hazelhatch. (Refusal to attend could be caused by a lack of available water in the area for firefighting or by a refusal by the owner to undertake to pay the brigade for their attendance).

They did attend a fire in Artane on 21 November to deal with 29 tons of straw well alight in an iron shed and again on 23 November they worked at a fire in Brackenstown , Swords. It was a busy night as there was another out of area call to deal with a fire in a rick of thrashed oats in Crumlin. On 8 December the brigade found itself in Kilbarrack, outside the city limits, dealing with a fire in a quantity of straw but refused to go to Santry on 16 December as no water was available.

siptu

The report goes on to detail the minutia of brigade life. Three firemen had retired: Thomas Murphy after 25 years service, Robert O`Hara after 25 years and Henry Byrne after 24 years. If these seem like relatively short lengths of service remember that men were working long shifts on continuous duty with little or no protection from the elements. Many firemen in those years succumbed to T.B or ‘consumption’ which was endemic in the Dublin slums.

The following promotions were noted: Foremen Patrick Barry and Martin Jennings to Station Officer and Firemen Thomas Smart to Foreman. The death is noted and underlined in black of the Buckingham Street Station Officer Joseph Kiernan after 25 years service.

The plant in service included two steam fire engines (horse drawn) and two motor fire engines. Three aerial extension ladders (T.L.s), two hose tenders, one hose wagon, one motor ambulance (new that year) and two horse drawn ambulance wagons. The brigade also owned two breathing apparatus, one a ‘Bader patent’ smoke helmet and one an ‘oxygen rescue apparatus’.

In 1913 the ambulance service had responded to 2,206 calls. Some of these calls would have been caused by the street rioting which was a feature of the lockout and included the police riot and baton charge of Sunday 31 August and the DMP attack on Corporation Buildings which followed, both of which inflicted many casualties on striking workers including a number of fatalities. The brigade took delivery of it`s first motor ambulance that year as well.

The fires fought that year were a typical mix and included some which seem odd to modern eyes such as the fire on 12 January in a drying kiln on Dolphins Barn Street at P.J. Ray`s ‘Curled Hair Factory’ which was extinguished by two jets from a motor engine.A fire at 18 Capel Street on 18 July burned the premises of ‘cork manufacturer’ Kavanagh and Company.

fat cats

The tensions within the city might have also played a part in two fires at pawnbrokers and ‘incendiarism’ was listed as the cause of another fire in Dolphins Barn when, on 2 December a double span hay barn was burned in the premises of William Richardson, carrier.

I include some pages from the 1913 annual report. It is a small glimpse into life in Dublin and life within the DFB 100 years ago. (These will be posted shortly)

How 1913 was a cornerstone of the Labour Movement

Posted May 4, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: 2013 Events

Tags: , , , , , ,

This year’s Jim Connell festival saw a discussion about “how 1913 was a cornerstone of the Labour Movement”, with Senator Denis Landy, longtime SIPTU member Alan MacSimóin, Cllr Mary Foy from Gateshead, and Stephen Hepburn MP fom Jarrow.

kells

This is what Alan MacSimóin had to say.

For many of this year’s Lockout commemorations, we will be presented with a picture of a brave working class which was beaten down by an all-powerful ruling class. We will be reminded of the soup kitchens, of tenement life, of the police attack on corporation buildings, of the baton charges which killed James Nolan and James Byrne, of the murder of Alice Brady by a scab, of barefoot and hungry children, of food ships, of suffering and of ultimate defeat.

However, that is but part of the story of 1913. What is less often talked about is the militancy of the Dublin workers, the huge support for sympathy strikes, the abhorrence felt by most working people at the idea of passing a picket, the fact that the Irish Citizen Army was formed as a trade union defence force that was prepared to take on the police, and most notably, the acceptance by tens of thousands that there was a class divide and that you stood with your own side.

Today, just about everyone in our movement agrees that the Lockout was probably the most important single event in our history.

Some see it as a complete and total defeat, a warning that if our unions go too far in fighting for their members they will bring down on themselves the entire might of the state, and will be crushed. The defeat of the British miners by the Thatcher government in 1985 reinforced this view.

scab, tailors

Others look at 1913 and see a spirit of solidarity and militancy, class pride, a refusal to bend the knee, and a belief that life can be made better.

When looking at the Lockout it is important to remember that the ITGWU were not fighting for a pay rise, for better conditions, or for recognition. They were fighting a defensive action against 400 employers set to destroy them. In all defensive battles simply surviving the attack can be a victory.

For the ITGWU to remain active, with many smaller employers actually granting official recognition during the struggle, must be seen as a victory in the long term. In the hundred years since, the employers have never dared to mount such an offensive against the union’s existence again.

James Connolly summed up the balance sheet:

The battle was a drawn battle. The employers, despite their Napoleonic plan of campaign, and their more than Napoleonic ruthlessness and unscrupulous use of foul means, were unable to carry out their business without men and women who remained loyal to the union. The workers were unable to force the employers to a formal recognition of the union, and to give preference to organised labour.”

IWWU 1

The strikers who could return to work did so, but many hundreds were victimised as employers took the pick of those they would allow to return. While the end of the Lockout was a bitter experience for the working class, it would be a mistake to view the result as a total defeat.

Murphy had promised not only to defeat the strikers, but to smash their union and to erradicate Larkinism. As leader of the 400 employers Murphy rejected conciliation efforts by both the British government and the TUC leadership. He was after nothing less than total victory. Yet, in this aim he was unsuccessful. The union survived and continued.

In 1915 James Connolly, then acting General Secretary of the ITGWU, gave a report to the Irish Trade Union Congress. He declared:

You will remember how four hundred employers banded themselves together to destroy us, and pledged their sacred word of honour that they would wipe that union off the map; that when the fight was over no man or woman affiliated to us, or friendly to us, would ever be employed in Dublin. … Well, did the unholy conspiracy against Labour achieve its object? Was the union crushed? Did our flag come down? Let me tell you our position today, and tell it by an illustration.

  • Stevedores Association: One penny per ton increase on all tonnage rules.
  • Deep Sea Boats: One shilling per day on all day wage men.
  • Casual Cross Channel Boats: One shilling per day.
  • Constant Cross Channel Boats: Eightpence per day.
  • Dublin and General Company’s employees: Four shillings.
  • Dublin dockyard labourers: Three shillings per week.
  • Ross and Walpole: Two shillings per week
  • General carriers’ men: Two shillings per week granted direct to men after receipt of letter from the Union.”

As time is short I’ll just look at two elements, which were very much a part of union culture in 1913 but which badly need resuscitation today.

The first is Solidarity action

It is good that our unions issue messages of solidarity to others in struggle. It’s better when they make cash donations. But expressions of sympathy and financial help, on their own, are not enough. If ‘An Injury to One is the Concern of All’ is to be taken seriously is has to be backed up with action.

soli fish

We need to know that the full weight of the movement can be mobilised when necessary. Goods which have been handled by strikebreakers should be blacked. A picket should mean you don’t go in, no staff, no deliveries, no customers, no services. That’s the sort of solidarity that really matters, because it is effective. It empowers union members and it get results. Today that sounds almost extreme, yet it was what our unions proclaimed until the advent of the Two-Tier picket in 1970, and then ‘social partnership’ from 1987.

And one of the fruits of that partnership was given to us in 1990, when with barely a murmur from the trade union leadership, we were landed with the Industrial Relations Act. Since then, almost all forms of effective solidarity action have been illegal.

Almost before the ink was dry, the Act was used in the River Valley dispute (February 1991). The strikers’ union, SIPTU, instructed its members in Roches Stores and Quinnsworth not to handle River Valley produce. The company sought, and were granted, a high court order restraining the union from interfering in their business “…in any mode whatsoever.”

If our movement is to cease being a defensive one, merely ensuring a slow and orderly retreat in the face of the employers’ offensive, it will have to seriously discuss breaking this law. It’s a big step for most of us to take, but we know that breaking unfair laws is part and parcel of how progressive changes are won, to give two examples from the 26 counties in our own lifetimes: the sale of contraceptives and information about abortion. Both of these were won after mass lawbreaking made the old prohibitions unenforceable.

But it’s not just our side who see it like that. In 1966, Paddy Hillery, the man who went on to be President, introduced into the Dail a Trade Union Bill whose provisions included:-

a majority of all workers in a workplace would be required to authorise strike action

legal immunities would not apply to unofficial action

This Bill was heavily criticised by the Trade Union movement and Hillery was eventually forced to withdraw it. In doing so, he made a statement which today’s union leaders would do well to take note of –

the only law that will work is that in which trade unions co-operate.’”

The second element I want to touch on is Class unity

The early ITGWU was no run-of-the-mill trade union. It was established in the syndicalist and socialist tradition of the Industrial Workers of the World; the ‘One Big Union’ whose ultimate goal was the general strike to lockout the bosses and place production in the hands of the workers. The preamble to the IWW constitution said, and still does today,

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common … Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production and abolish the wage system”.

 images

obu

That’s where the OBU inscription on the old ITGWU badge came from. Both Connolly and Larkin organised with the IWW during their times in America, and Big Jim’s brother, Peter was an IWW organiser in Australia.

Interestingly, the current president of the Musicians Union, which is part of SIPTU, Andy Irvine, was also – and possibly still is- a member of the IWW.

From its beginning the ITGWU set out not only to organise in the workplace, but to see every battle as part of a broader fight to empower the working class and transform society. Through the Irish Worker newspaper, (which sold an average of 20,000 copies a week) and through the union’s social and cultural activities, Dublin’s workers were given a vision of a new world. A vision which, at times, could be summed up in Connolly’s words about “our demands most moderate are, we only want the earth”.

port

click here to read this pamphlet

Now zip forward to the ‘social partnership’ years. After the results of the 1992 election for SIPTU General Secretary, the unsuccessful candidate, Carolann Duggan, shocked some in the media. While she had been critical of the union leadership, she said that members should never lose sight of the fact that the employers were the “enemy”. One writer in the Irish Times (2 April 1998) found this “shocking”.

The thing is that the Irish Times would not be alone today. Most senior union officials would probably have a difficulty with her statement because they would almost certainly never say – and never, never in public, that the employers are our enemies. The notion that – regardless of how pleasant some bosses may be personally – that employers and workers have different class interests is regarded as out-of-date, as belonging to another time. Instead, from the 1980s onwards we were told that we had become social partners, not equal partners of course, but we could all get along happily together as long as we didn’t ask for too much.

no unions

The activist base in many unions declined as fewer workers saw the point in going to meetings when all the big decisions were being made elsewhere. In so far as any vision was promoted by the advocates of partnership it was one of maintaining our living standards, with the possibility of small and incremental improvements when our partners were agreeable.

When our partners walked away from the process, it was because they felt they could get away with throwing us fewer crumbs. And, until the very welcome defeat of Croke Park II, some of the gains from decades of union activity were being given away.

We have seen

  • the introduction of yellow pack grades into unionised jobs like Aer Lingus and the Bank of Ireland,
  • outsourcing of cleaning, security, IT, and more to contractors who pay lower wages,
  • modernisation” which often means more work for the same pay… I could go on, and on, and on… suffice to say that it does not exactly contribute to rebuilding a union culture of confidence, of membership involvement, of being part of a collective struggle to improve the lot of the vast majority.

work harder

Despite a national public sector strike, despite protests and marches; grassroots activism remains sporadic and our unions remain unwilling or unable to fight. The austerity offensive of the Coalition continues and we remain in retreat.

The Dublin that was part of the British Empire and the Dublin of U2 and the Financial Services Centre are not the same place, yet what inspired our predecessors 100 years ago, with its promotion of class unity and a fight for something more than just minor workplace improvements, is needed more than ever.

We can call it Larkinism. This is not a case of hero worshipping another long dead man. Larkin was certainly heroic, but was certainly not flawless.

There was the man who, being a Catholic, refused to attend a fund-raising rally because the proposed chairman was divorced. There was definitely the man who was difficult to get on with, the man who was probably capable of having a row with himself.

But we have no need of great all-knowing and perfect-in-every-way leaders, we are not sheep in search of a shepherd.

What do need is a vision for our unions. A vision of actually fighting for what we want, of unapologetic militancy, of solidarity action, of active participation by a lot more of the membership, and of our class embracing the slogan of the Three Musketeers – One for All, and All for One. That is the spirit of Larkinism, and I submit that is just as relevant & useful today as it was 100 years ago.

Not simply a dispute about union recognition

Posted March 4, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Uncategorized

This the speech given by Brian Hanley to the Sinn Fein conference, in Dublin on March 2nd 2013, about The Lock Out

SinnFein1913

Over the weekend of 30-31 August 1913, a few days into what was to become a five month long struggle, the Dublin Metropolitan Police ran amok across inner-city Dublin, attacking strikers and their supporters. Two men died after being batoned, hundreds were injured and many tenement homes were wrecked in vindictive police raids.

This is how one newspaper interpreted these events: ‘into these thoroughfares there have poured all the foul reserves of the slums, human beings whom life in the most darksome depths of a great city has deprived of most of the characteristics of civilization. In the majority of instances they are beings whose career is generally a prolonged debauch, seldom broken by the call of labour. Even when sheer necessity compels toil, it is undertaken unwillingly and merely to obtain the means to enable another spell of besotted idleness. They are essentially birds of night, and foul birds at that.’ That newspaper was the Irish Catholic.

Similar language was used by the Irish Independent, which accused ‘jail birds’ from the ‘reeking slums’ of seeking to impose a ‘reign of ruffianism’ in the city. The Irish Times too, deplored the ‘orgy of lawlessness and cowardly crime.’ A priest who gave evidence at the inquiry into the violence described how women and children of a ‘degraded class’ had behaved like ‘frenzied lunatics’ and asserted that the ‘behaviour of the Police was the only redeeming feature of what was for a Dublin citizen a really humiliating and disgusting spectacle.’

indo

The use of this language helps illustrate the key issue at stake in 1913. This was not simply a dispute about union recognition but about CLASS and POWER: which class would dominate self-governing Ireland: the assumption being that Dublin was soon to have its own parliament and Ireland, Home Rule at last.

The 400 Dublin employers were led by William Martin Murphy and that in itself was significant: a devout Catholic and a nationalist, Murphy was leading a Dublin business class that was still largely Protestant. Having made his fortune in railway building, by 1913 he owned the Dublin United Tramway Company, the Imperial and Metropole hotels and Clery’s department store. Murphy also controlled several newspapers, most notably the Irish Independent.

When Unionists asserted that nationalists would never be able to manage a modern economy, Murphy was held up in answer. Murphy claimed he was not anti-union. Indeed many of the Dublin employers were prepared to deal with craft unions- but they absolutely opposed the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. Murphy was shocked that what he saw as respectable workers in his Tramway company would want to join forces with what he termed ‘scum’ like James Larkin.

In contrast to the sometimes elitist craft unions Larkin explained how ‘we advocate one society for skilled and unskilled workers, so that when a skilled man is struck at, out comes the unskilled man, and when an unskilled worker is struck at, he will be supported by the skilled tradesman.’ The One Big Union: no isolation of a quarrel.

obu

Employers opposed the Transport Union because it was effective. Observers noted that the ITGWU had ‘considerably raised the wages of the various sections of industry that it organised.’ The union had also ‘brought hope to thousands of lower paid workers by adopting a very aggressive policy extending the use of the sympathetic strike.’

Its popularity was not simply due to industrial muscle. The ITGWU held out a vision of a new world to Dublin’s poorest, in a city with the worst poverty in the then United Kingdom. Even the employer’s historian of the Lock out admitted that ‘the Gothic pinnacles of St. Patrick’s Cathedral look directly down upon the quarter of the Coombe where the degradation of human kind is carried to a point of abjectness beyond that reached in any city of the Western world, save perhaps Naples.’

Through the Irish Worker newspaper, (which sold over 20,000 copies a week) and through the union’s social and cultural activities. Dublin’s workers were given a vision of a new world. The ITGWU gave self-respect, a sense of pride, in a society in which Dublin’s unskilled were looked down on by the upper classes, often despised by the middle class and sometimes derided by cultural nationalists for their supposed lack of Irishness.

By August 1913 the ITGWU had begun to expand its membership into more established sectors of the Dublin workforce, such as Murphy’s tram company, and the employers had decided to crush it at all costs. By September over 20,000 workers were on strike or locked out.

200px-Dublintram

Over the next five months practical solidarity came from ordinary workers across Ireland and Britain: the first shipment of 60,000 food parcels from British trade unionists arrived in September. Radical republicans such as Tom Clarke and some writers and artists also expressed their support.

But the mass of middle-class opinion, both nationalist and unionist, opposed the workers. In the press Larkin was demonized as a foreign troublemaker, an Englishman and even a ‘Liverpool Orangeman.’ The Catholic Church feared ‘Godless’ Larkinism’. Nationalist MP John Dillon described Larkin was ‘a very dangerous enemy to Home Rule.’ Even Sinn Féin’s Arthur Griffith, while not supportive of the employers saw Larkinism as a diversion from separatism and opposed accepting support from British trade unionists.

The Lock out was ultimately defeated and defeats should not be romanticized. There will be a temptation for some to remember 1913 this year, feel they have done their bit for labour history and then move on to other commemorations. But Irish labour history did not end in 1913: the general strikes, workplace occupations and revolts of the 1918-23 period should be commemorated as well. Despite sometimes heroic solidarity, it is also important to remember that Dublin’s workers were also divided in 1913: in terms of craft, between skilled and unskilled; men and women; Catholic and Protestant.

Even the most progressive trade unionists accepted many of the prejudices of their day. When Mary Ellen Murphy, a teenage striker at Jacobs, was placed in a reformatory in Drumcondra, next to a Magdalene asylum, both Larkin and James Connolly called for her release on the basis that this innocent and ‘pure’ young girl could be corrupted by the company of ‘fallen women.’ Divisions even within the poor….

Today private sector workers are pitted against public: employed against unemployed: native Irish against immigrant: settled against Traveller: and in the North, still, Protestant against Catholic. Our press continues to be controlled by a handful of wealthy individuals: it is probable that today Murphy would be lauded as the type of man we need to help make ‘Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business’ (though to be fair to Murphy he did not reside for tax reasons in Malta).

not over

Commentators compete to tell the low-paid that they no longer need trade unions and that ‘austerity is working’. The localities at the centre of the Lock out, Dublin’s north and south inner cities, remain among Ireland’s poorest: the people who live in them often still stigmatized- sometimes in similar terms to those used in 1913. So then, a lot of unfinished business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best two banners on the ICTU march in Dublin, 09.02.2013

Posted February 10, 2013 by Irish Anarchist History Archive
Categories: Uncategorized

Unfinished business

On yesterday’s march against the debt burden, it seemed that much of the ICTU leadership were more concerned with defending their Labour Party pals in government than with any notion of defending their own members.  It was refreshing to see these banners making an appearance.

class war