Books

The Reds in the street
The Dublin Lock Out 1913: New perspectives on Class War and its Legacy edited by Conor McNamara & Padraig Yeates (Irish Academic Press, €24.99pb / €44.99hb)

James Larkin speaking to workers in O’Connell Street.

Tom Morrissey

The Lockout centenary commemoration was a triumph of careful organisation, hard work and trade union support. 

In the process, James Larkin was glorified, his failings largely ignored. The Great Strike / Lockout was depicted as a ‘moral victory’ even a ‘great turning point’, when in fact it left hundreds of families worse off than they had been, hundreds of men jobless, forced to emigrate or join the British army and soon after face the horrors of the First World War, while the Transport Union itself was almost destroyed. 

People active in support of the locked out workers, such as Helena Moloney, were, as Ferghal McGarry points out, given special prominence during the commemoration, and Rosie Hackett was plucked from relative obscurity to have a bridge named after her.

Despite a sense of saturation concerning the Lockout at this stage, the present book deserves attention for its many interesting papers given originally at the Byrne-Perry Summer School in Wexford. 

Examination

A most interesting paper or chapter is that by Ferghal McGarry “Into the Sun: Helena Molony’s Lost Revolution”. His searching examination follows the career of a woman of idealism and compassion in 1913, who subsequently became an extreme nationalist who was prepared to work with Soviet communism and even German National Socialism to further her cause.

In the 1940s she assisted in the sheltering of a German spy and worked for a German invasion / liberation of Ireland.

An international aspect to the Lockout is contributed by Meredith Meagher in “An Irish-American perspective in the 1913 Lockout”. 

It is concerned with the different strands in the Irish-American press: those represented by Patrick Forde supporting Redmond and a Home Rule Ireland, and those by John Devoy, seeking a republic even by violence.

Both were conscious of the Irish as the ‘old’ immigrants who adapted successfully to American ways, as distinct from the ‘new’ immigrants from Eastern Europe or Asia.  

Their sense of success in the American context rendered social division at home as a painful subject. 

Solution

They emphasised that the solution to Ireland’s problems, political and social, lay in Irish self-government. A view that was shared by Connolly during his American years and later, though he travelled a route that welcomed all  immigrants to his socialist cause.

Another chapter that appealed to the present writer was “Dublin’s Newsboys, 1900-1922’.  It is an unexpectedly interesting story of youths living in intense poverty,  who earned what they could by selling newspapers and who, following the trade union strike fever in 1911, were prepared themselves to go on strike and use violence to gain better pay. 

Like the men on the Great Strike they failed in their quest, but they remained loyal to Larkin, who had paid them better than other newspapers for distributing the Irish Worker.

The article pays tribute to the different philanthropic and charitable societies that were formed to assist the newsboys, including the Belvedere Newsboy Club, still operating, which was founded by Dr Lombard Murphy, who was greatly admired by the newsboys even if he was the son of William Martin Murphy!