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If you think US elections are bitter take a look at the 1913 Lockout, where Dublin employers  accused trade unionist “Big Jim” Larkin of being the son of Phoenix park assassin James Carey.

Background

On the 26th August 1913 one of Ireland bitterest Trade Union disputes broke out in Dublin. The Lockout began when tram workers went on strike in protest against their employer’s ban on their membership of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU). Their employer William Martin Murphy was one of Dublin’s biggest businessmen owning several businesses including Independent Newspapers.

The situation escalated in September when several other employers in Dublin agreed to support Martin Murphy and break the ITGWU by refusing to employ the union’s members. Soon over 50,000 workers were locked out of their employment. In what became an increasingly bitter dispute Martin Murphy  refused to budge despite the dire conditions the locked out workers had to endure.

Dirty Tricks
The figurehead of the strike was Big Jim Larkin, a Liverpool born trade unionist and organiser for the Irish Transport and General Workers Union. He was soon vilified by the employers of Dublin. In September 1913 they launched a newspaper called “The Toiler” which was described its aims “To advance the interest of labour & protect industry & commerce” Aimed at workers it attempted to undermine the Union.

In the article above they stooped to a particular low by ludicrously accusing Larkin of being the son of James Carey. James Carey was one of the Phoenix Park murderers. He had organised what was one of the most brutal assassinations in Irish history in the 19th century when he and a group (the Invincibles) killed the chief secretary and his under-secretary with surgical knives. Carey was despised by all sides of the political spectrum even  those who may have had sympathy with his actions.

After he was arrested in 1883 Carey, in order to save his own neck, testified against his own comrades, five of whom were executed. Incidentally Carey fled Ireland in the aftermath of the trial fleeing to South Africa. On board the ship he befriended another Irish man Patrick O’Donnell who didn’t know who he was. On seeing a newspaper Patrick O’Donnell realised who his new friend was and shot and killed Carey.

The ludicrous attempt to link Carey and Larkin needless to say had no basis whatsoever. Larkin was born in Liverpool while Carey lived in Dublin. While it may seem crass it was part on a huge campaign by Dublin employers to break the ITGWU. By 1914 Dublin’s workers began to drift back to work driven by desperate poverty and by the end of January 1914 the employers had won. Larkin for his part left Ireland emigrating to America. You can read about his life and activities there in this article

The centenary of the 1913 Lock Out is coming up next year. A Committee of historians and trade unionists are organising several events to mark the centenary. Find out whats coming up by following their facebook page.

Thanks to Conor Mc Cabe for the image. Conor has written an excellent history of Ireland in the 20th century examining the roots of Ireland’s Economic Collapse. “Sins of the Father” is well worth a read

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