Tom Millea on research into labour solidarity between Britain and Ireland in the Dublin lockout

As a result of the bursary awarded to me from the Society for the Study of Labour History, I was able to successfully conduct my research into the labour solidarity between Britain and Ireland during the Dublin Lockout of 1913. My research centred on the material on offer in the National Library of Ireland. For example, the William O’Brien Papers provided me with invaluable insight into the relations of British and Irish labour during this period. My study focussed on the development of revolutionary syndicalism in the early twentieth century. The use of militant tactics for the purpose of trade union agitation caused a split in the trade union movement during this period. Consequently, this had significant consequences concerning the solidarity between Britain and Ireland during the Lockout as the Irish workers on strike relied on the industrial support from Britain. The trade union leadership in Britain opposed the use of such militancy as they feared this would disrupt bargaining agreements with their employers. However syndicalism was much more popular with the rank and file workers of Britain who set about conducting a wave of unofficial strike action in support of their Dublin comrades.

My time in the National Library of Ireland was spent documenting various sources from the William O’Brien Papers which provided an insight into the labour solidarity during the Lockout. For example, personal correspondence, telegrams and other statements by labour leaders, such as James Larkin and James Connolly, provided me with a plethora of evidence which greatly contributed to my assessment of the Lockout. In addition to the personal papers, I was also able to access vital newspaper archives, such as the Irish Times archive. Resources such as these proved instrumental to my research. Two chapters of my thesis assess the role of the British and Irish press during the Lockout. The Irish Times printed numerous articles during the Lockout highlighting the influence of James Larkin during his ‘Fiery Cross Crusade’ of Britain, this was highly significant in creating support amongst the workers of Britain and the reports in the newspapers reflect this.

Shown here are two images taken from the Irish Times Archive in the National Library of Ireland. The images show an article in the Weekly Irish Times, 28 February 1914, which heavily criticises the use of syndicalism in Ireland. The paper reflects Ireland’s conservative rhetoric regarding industrial unionism and provides an excellent example of the source material on offer at the NLI. Evidence such as this was crucial to my assessment of the solidarity between British and Irish labour during the Lockout. The opposition to syndicalism emphasised in this article reveals the difficulties faced by the British and Irish workers in their attempts to unite their cause.

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