James Larkin: The man who died fighting for Irish workers’ rights

James Larkin was born to Irish parents in Liverpool on 21 January 1876. He went to live with is grandparents in Newry, Ireland when he was five. Larkin went back to England in 1885 and became a dock laborer. While there, he persuaded Catholics and Protestants to work together.

He joined the Independent Labour Party in 1893 and sold The Clarion during his free time. Larkin became T & J. Harrison Ltd.’s foreman dock-porter in 1893 but was sacked the next year for going on strike with his colleagues.

James Larkin stayed active in the union and was elected General Organizer in 1906, of the National Union Dock laborers (NUDL). The union sent him to Belfast in January 1907 where he recruited more than 400 new members in three weeks.

The dock employers felt threatened by his development and sacked UNDL’s members on 15 July 1907, an action that led to a bitter and long industrial dispute. James was sent to Dublin to organize skilled and unskilled dock workers and on 11 August 1907, launched the NUDL.

He recruited 2,700 men over the next 12 months and led three strikes. NUDL became concerned about the costs that the attacks imposed and suspended James on 7 December 1908, and Larkin decided to establish his union, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union (ITGWU). Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://spartacus-educational.com/IRElarkin.htm and http://spartacus-educational.com/IRElarkin.htm

ITGWU had branches in Drogheda, Derry, and Belfast beside its offices in Dublin. It also had a political programme that comprised a legal eight-hour day, pensions for workers over 60 years and provision of work to all the unemployed, among other requirements.

James became a Christian socialist and believed in industrial militancy, a belief that upset Irish Traders Union Congress leaders and therefore in1909 expelled him from the organization.

He established his newspaper, the Irish Worker which sold 26,000 copies in its first month in June, and by September 1911, he sold 94,994 copies. The paper listed corrupt government officials and bad employers.

Larkin was forced to close the newspaper but began another original publication, Irish Workers’ Voice. He died in 1947 having fought successfully for fair employment rights. James Larkin | Ireland Calling and James Larkin – Wikipedia