'An injury to one is a concern to all'

Sean Doyle from the Wicklow branch Independent Workers Union with his address at Men of Iron commemorative gate, the Faythe, Wexford Town on 11th May 2013.

Comrades, friends, I consider it a great honour and privilege to be invited to address you on the eve of the anniversary of the execution of James Connolly on the 12th of May 1916. Also this year is the centenary year of The Great Dublin Lock Out 1913.

Wexford workers were the first to experience and suffer the recourse to a lock out on the part of the foundry owners to cooperate as a preemptive blow that the newly emergent Irish Transport and General Workers Union would not get established in the industry in Wexford.

The three foundries Pierce Foundry, The Selzkar Ironworks and The Star Foundry serviced the agricultural machinery needs of the county but also a thriving export trade worldwide. Pierce was the first to dismiss a known union member in August 1911 and consequently 700 men were thrown out of their employment.

The dispute yet again saw the Captains of Industry backed up by police reinforcements, and in September 1911 Michael Leary, an innocent bystander, died from wounds sustained in a baton charge after police charged the protesting workers. The commitment and organisational ability of the ITGWU under the leadership of James Larkin, James Connolly and P.T. Daly was hands on addressing meetings here in Wexford at the coalface of the dispute.

The new trade unionism which differed from its more sectional predecessors was all encompassing. What set it apart was the vigour of its industrial action, its ability to mobilise all sections of general workers to support other workers in less strategic positions and promotion of the principle that “an injury to one is a concern to all”.

But the key to sustaining the families through the bitter dispute was once again the Wexford people as in 1798 and numerous times in our freedom struggle. This was no exception. The support for their plight came from the people from friendly societies, local newspapers and local shopkeepers who extended credit through the winter months of the dispute. James Connolly commended them all also. The Leinster Council of the GAA, local clubs Wolfe Tones and Castlebridge who organised games and parades to keep up the spirit of the workers during the five bitter months of the dispute. Connolly credited local organiser Richard Corish for his work. He had been previously employed as a skilled fitter in The Star Ironworks before becoming an activist in support of the union. Larkin and Connolly were his house guests during the dispute.

Corish after the lock out was appointed President of the Foundry Workers Union but was quickly absorbed back in to the ITGWU. But it wasn’t always plain sailing for Corish. In December 1911 he was convicted along with another activist, a local man Richard Furlong, and the union organiser P.T. Daly for actions during the dispute. It appears the so called learned men of law were not aware of The Trade Union Dispute Act of 1906. Prior to that you could be charged under criminal law and deemed to constitute conspiracy or restraint of trade.

The new Labour law reforms created a legal framework for industrial relations that was to remain the basis of modern Irish trade union law for over 80 years. Connolly addressed the workers after the settlement. He said you are returning to work as a body united joined together realising what their position is, one solid body to act in unity for a common purpose.

The achievement of the Wexford foundry workers in securing the right to have their own union anticipated the guarantee later enshrined in our 1937 Constitution for the right of citizens to form associations and unions both of which have been ratified by Ireland and now constitute a cornerstone of the social dimension of the European Union. The Wexford Lock Out is an important chapter of Irish labour history. The struggle required great courage, commitment and solidarity from ordinary hard working people. We should never forget that as Irish people we benefit to this day from the changes that these people fought so bravely for.

Connolly and Larkin brought their talents and the Wexford experience back to bear in Dublin during the 1913 Lock Out against fierce opposition from William Martin Murphy who owned the Dublin Tram Company and other businesses and a considerable amount of the slum tenements that the workers had to live in. He like the foundry owners organised a confederation of businesses in an attempt to crush the rise of trade unionism. They orchestrated brutal attacks on the union workers. It was relentless. Such was the severity from the metropolitan police, the R.I.C. and the paid lackeys of Dublin commerce that Connolly and Larkin deemed it essential to protect the union workers to form The Irish Citizens Army.

Connolly true to his word when an opportunity to strike a blow at the foreign tyrant presented in the 1916 Rising and he was not found wanting. When Connolly was captured with his comrades during the 1916 rising while the British were deliberating what to do the Dublin chamber of commerce were insisting that he be executed. It was an opportunity for native capitalists and their British business partners to make sure any threat to their financial arrangements between 1916 and 1922 were eliminated. No socialist threat only gombeens to assume aspirations of power.

Just as in 1847 trade continued. Food was been exported from our ports while people died in ditches of hunger. Connolly nailed it when he said “Providence brought the blight, Britain created the Famine”. Fast forward to the events of poverty today in Ireland when the Troika introduced austerity that was a declaration of economic war affirming that ordinary people would be forced to pay the gambling debts of the banks, bondholders and speculators.

When people say austerity is not working it is proof they had been fooled because austerity was designed to cut services, cut welfare, cut wages, cut education, cut elderly care, child benefit etc. Cut our standard of living back to pauper status and ensure law is kept in step to protect the ill gotten gains and our grandchildren born 50,000 in debt and future guarantors of speculators of the future unless we say no more, and fight back.

As a member of the Independent Workers Union we are calling for a national strike. Like Connolly we believe the fight must be brought to bear on the perpetrators the banks and the financial sector both home and in collaboration with people similarly being crucified across Europe. We must not let history recount us as the willing slaves and placement of our children in continued servitude to the robber barons of Europe.

The Troika they have drawn the battle lines. They are clear and decisive that we must pay. The coalition government of big business have legislated to empower revenue to use rich man’s laws to extract bread, butter and clothing money from our families for a home tax regardless of the welfare of our children but it’s time to go back to our core values. Our homes are sacrosanct. Anyone or institution that poses a threat to our families and our homes will be vigorously opposed then defended by whatever means. And we fill fight to their destruction. It is time to rise up.

I will conclude with a quote from the most inspirational and I believe committed socialist republican James Connolly who was executed on the 12th of May 1916:

Ireland as distinct from her people is nothing to me and the man who is bubbling over with love and enthusiasm for Ireland and can yet pass unmoved through our streets, and witness all the wrong and suffering, the shame and degradation brought upon the people of Ireland - aye, by Irishmen upon Irishmen and women without burning to end it, is in my opinion a fraud and a liar in his heart, no matter how he loves that combination of chemical elements he is pleased to call Ireland.


  1. Well said Sean a cara and indeed if we are to learn anything from Connolly or Larkin it is that all the wishing or talking in the world will not stop the continuing assault on the ordinary man, woman and child not only here but across europe.action is needed and it is needed now,wherever the troika has inflicted misery onto the population,as if the ordinary man /woman were in some way responsible for the debts of bankers ,speculators,and they are just collecting a debt,we need to follow those great mens example and get the fuck up of our knees and with one unified voice from Greece,Italy,Spain,Ireland tell those leeches that this is all the blood your going to get,we need national strikes on an international scale,and like Larkin,and Connolly we need to organise our defenses,because you can be certain that those in power will not roll over quietly,the struggle may be bloody but not as bad as watching our family and country being dragged back to the conditions that forefathers had to endure pre 1911

  2. Sean Doyle constantly keeps us in touch with the radical soul of republicanism