When it comes to the history of labor activism in Ireland, one of the most prominent names is that of Jim Larkin.
Born in 1876 in Liverpool, England, his working career began early. At just seven years of age, Larkin would work afternoons following his school day so his poor family could have some extra money. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://ireland-calling.com/james-larkin/ and http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison
He was a teenager when he started work as a sailor and dock worker, and soon became a foreman.
It was during this time that Larkin developed an interest in socialism, which led to him joining the Independent Labour Party. In 1905, he took part in the Liverpool dock strike to protest what he saw as unfair treatment of the workers. It cost him his foreman’s job, but Larkin wound up becoming a full time organizer for the National Union of Dock Labourers.
Sent to Belfast in 1907, Larkin’s accomplishments grew. He unionized the dock workers there, united Protestant and Catholic workers, and even had the Royal Irish Constabulary strike. He ultimately went on to form the Irish Labour Party.
One of his biggest undertakings came in 1913, when he led 100,000 workers in the Dublin Lockout, which lasted eight months and ended with the workers receiving the right to fair employment.
During World War I, Larkin helped organize anti-war protests in Dublin, then left for the United States to help the growing communist movement there. In 1920, he was jailed for criminal anarchy.
After three years behind bars, Larkin was released and sent back to Ireland. Shortly after his return, he organized the Worker’s Union of Ireland.
Jim Larkin passed away in his sleep in 1947 at the age of 71. A statue was erected in his honor on O’Connell Street in Dublin, and a street in his hometown of Liverpool is also named after him. Larkin is also the subject of poems, books, and songs by groups like Black 47 and the Dubliners.