Dublin Lockout
The Dublin Lock-out was a major industrial dispute between approximately 20,000 workers and 300 employers which took place in Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

's capital city of Dublin. The dispute lasted from 26 August 1913 to 18 January 1914, and is often viewed as the most severe and significant industrial dispute in Irish history
History of Ireland
The first known settlement in Ireland began around 8000 BC, when hunter-gatherers arrived from continental Europe, probably via a land bridge. Few archaeological traces remain of this group, but their descendants and later Neolithic arrivals, particularly from the Iberian Peninsula, were...

. Central to the dispute was the workers' right to unionise
Labor rights
Labor rights or workers' rights are a group of legal rights and claimed human rights having to do with labor relations between workers and their employers, usually obtained under labor and employment law. In general, these rights' debates have to do with negotiating workers' pay, benefits, and safe...


Dublin slums

One of the major factors which contributed to the ignition of the dispute was the dire circumstances in which the city's poor lived. In 1913, one third of Dublin's population lived in slums. 30,000 families lived in 15,000 tenement
A tenement is, in most English-speaking areas, a substandard multi-family dwelling, usually old, occupied by the poor.-History:Originally the term tenement referred to tenancy and therefore to any rented accommodation...

s. An estimated four million pledges were taken in pawnbrokers every year. The infant mortality rate amongst the poor was 142 per 1,000 births, which was very high for a Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an nation. The situation was made considerably worse by the high rate of disease in the slums, which was the result of a lack of health care and cramped living conditions, among other things. The most prevalent disease in the Dublin slums at this time was tuberculosis
Tuberculosis, MTB, or TB is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease caused by various strains of mycobacteria, usually Mycobacterium tuberculosis. Tuberculosis usually attacks the lungs but can also affect other parts of the body...

 (TB), which spread through tenements very quickly and caused many deaths amongst the poor. A report published in 1912 claimed that TB-related deaths in Ireland were fifty percent higher than in England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 or Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, and that the vast majority of TB-related deaths in Ireland occurred amongst the poorer classes.

Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

 was perpetuated in Dublin by the lack of occupational opportunities for unskilled workers. Prior to the advent of trade unionism in Ireland, unskilled workers lacked any form of representation. Furthermore, there were many more unskilled labourers in Dublin than there were jobs for them. Thus unskilled workers often had to compete with one another for work on a daily basis, the job generally going to whoever agreed to work for the lowest wages.

James Larkin and the formation of the ITGWU

James Larkin
James Larkin
James Larkin was an Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, born to Irish parents in Liverpool, England. He and his family later moved to a small cottage in Burren, southern County Down. Growing up in poverty, he received little formal education and began working in a variety of jobs...

, the main protagonist on the side of the workers in the dispute, had a history within the trade union movement. His first experience with trade unionism in Ireland had been in 1907 when he was sent to Belfast
Belfast is the capital of and largest city in Northern Ireland. By population, it is the 14th biggest city in the United Kingdom and second biggest on the island of Ireland . It is the seat of the devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly...

 as local leader of the British-based National Union of Dock Labourers
National Union of Dock Labourers
The National Union of Dock Labourers was a trade union in the United Kingdom. It was formed in Glasgow in 1889 but moved its headquarters to Liverpool within a few years and was thereafter most closely associated with Merseyside...

 (NUDL) after working as a docker in Liverpool
Liverpool is a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England, along the eastern side of the Mersey Estuary. It was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880...

. While in Belfast, Larkin organized a strike of dock and transport workers. It was also in Belfast that Larkin developed his tactic of the sympathetic strike, whereby workers who were not directly involved in an industrial dispute with employers would go on strike in support of other workers who were. The Belfast strike was moderately successful and boosted Larkin's standing amongst Irish workers. However, his tactics were highly controversial and as a result Larkin was transferred to Dublin. Unskilled workers in Dublin were very much at the mercy of their employers. Employers who suspected workers of trying to organize could "blacklist" them, practically destroying any chance of future employment. Nevertheless, Larkin set about trying to organize the unskilled workers of Dublin. This was a cause of concern for the NUDL, who were reluctant to engage in a full-scale industrial dispute with Dublin employers. As a result Larkin was suspended from the NUDL in 1908. Larkin then decided to leave the NUDL and set up his own union, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
Irish Transport and General Workers' Union
The Irish Transport and General Workers Union, an Irish trade union, was founded by James Larkin in 1908 as a general union. Initially drawing its membership from branches of the Liverpool-based National Union of Dock Labourers, from which Larkin had been expelled, it grew to include workers in a...


The ITGWU was the first Irish trade union to cater for both skilled and unskilled workers. In the first few months after its establishment it quickly gained popularity, and soon it had spread to other Irish cities. The ITGWU was used as a vehicle for Larkin's syndicalist views. Larkin believed in the bringing about of a socialist revolution by way of the establishment of trade unions and the calling of general strike
General strike
A general strike is a strike action by a critical mass of the labour force in a city, region, or country. While a general strike can be for political goals, economic goals, or both, it tends to gain its momentum from the ideological or class sympathies of the participants...

s. After initially losing several strikes between 1908 and 1910, the ITGWU became more successful after 1911, winning several strikes involving carters and railway workers. Between 1911 and 1913, membership of the ITGWU rose from 4,000 to 10,000. This trend did not go unnoticed by employers, who soon became alarmed by the rise in popularity of the new trade union.

Larkin had also learned much from the progress and results of the Tonypandy Riots and the 1911 Liverpool general transport strike
1911 Liverpool General Transport Strike
The 1911 Liverpool General Transport Strike involved dockers, railway workers and sailors, as well people from other trades. It paralysed Liverpool commerce for most of the summer of 1911. It also transformed trade unionism on Merseyside...


Connolly and the Irish Labour Party

Another important figure in the rise of an organized workers' movement in Ireland at this time was James Connolly
James Connolly
James Connolly was an Irish republican and socialist leader. He was born in the Cowgate area of Edinburgh, Scotland, to Irish immigrant parents and spoke with a Scottish accent throughout his life. He left school for working life at the age of 11, but became one of the leading Marxist theorists of...

, an Edinburgh-born Marxist of Irish descent. Connolly, like Larkin, was a talented orator and became known for his speeches on the streets of Dublin, in which he made a case not only for socialism, but also for Irish nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

. In 1896, Connolly established the Irish Socialist Republican Party
Irish Socialist Republican Party
The Irish Socialist Republican Party was a pivotal Irish political party founded in 1896 by James Connolly. Its aim was to establish an Irish workers' republic...

, along with the newspaper The Workers' Republic. In 1910 Connolly became involved with the ITGWU, and was appointed as its Belfast organizer in 1911. In 1912 Connolly and Larkin formed the Irish Labour Party, which was intended to represent the workers in the imminent Home Rule Bill
Home Rule Act 1914
The Government of Ireland Act 1914 , also known as the Third Home Rule Bill, was an Act passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom intended to provide self-government for Ireland within the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.The Act was the first law ever passed by the Parliament of...

 debate in Parliament (which, due to the start of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 was suspended for one year and then indefinitely after the rise of militant nationalism
Irish Republicanism
Irish republicanism is an ideology based on the belief that all of Ireland should be an independent republic.In 1801, under the Act of Union, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland...

 following the 1916 Rising, so it never actually materialized).

William Martin Murphy and the employers

Foremost among the employers opposed to trade unionism in Ireland was William Martin Murphy
William Martin Murphy
William Martin Murphy was an Irish nationalist journalist, businessman and politician. A Member of Parliament representing Dublin from 1885 to 1892, he was dubbed 'William Murder Murphy' among Dublin workers and the press due to the Dublin Lockout of 1913...

. Murphy was a highly successful businessman from Co. Cork. In 1913, he was chairman of the Dublin United Tramway Company and owner of Clery's department store and the Imperial Hotel. He also controlled the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

, Evening Herald
Evening Herald
The Evening Herald is a mid-market tabloid evening newspaper published in Dublin, Ireland by Independent News & Media. It is published Monday-Saturday, and has three editions — City Edition, City Final Edition and National Edition...

and Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic
Irish Catholic is a term used to describe people who are both Roman Catholic and Irish .Note: the term is not used to describe a variant of Catholicism. More particularly, it is not a separate creed or sect in the sense that "Anglo-Catholic", "Old Catholic", "Eastern Orthodox Catholic" might be...

newspapers and was a major shareholder in the B&I Line. Murphy was also a prominent nationalist
Irish nationalism
Irish nationalism manifests itself in political and social movements and in sentiment inspired by a love for Irish culture, language and history, and as a sense of pride in Ireland and in the Irish people...

 and a former Home Rule
Irish Parliamentary Party
The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell, the leader of the Nationalist Party, replacing the Home Rule League, as official parliamentary party for Irish nationalist Members of Parliament elected to the House of Commons at...

 MP in Westminster
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

. He was known as a kind and charitable man in his private life. He was regarded as a good employer and his workers received fair wages. Conditions were poor. Employees were forced to work up to 17 hours a day and a harsh discipline regime and informer culture was pursued. Murphy was vehemently opposed to trade unions which he saw as an attempt to impede on his business, and in particular he was opposed to Larkin, whom he saw as a dangerous revolutionary. In July 1913, Murphy presided over a meeting of 300 employers, at which a collective response to the rise of trade unionism was agreed upon. Murphy and the employers were determined not to allow the ITGWU to unionize the Dublin workforce. On 15 August Murphy dismissed forty workers he suspected of ITGWU membership, followed by another 300 over the next week.

Course of the dispute

Beginning of Strike

On 26 August, workers of the Dublin tram system's
Dublin tram system
Dublin tramways was a system of trams in Dublin, Ireland which commenced line-laying in 1871, and began service in 1872, following trials in the mid-1860s....

 Dublin United Tramways Company officially went on strike
Strike action
Strike action, also called labour strike, on strike, greve , or simply strike, is a work stoppage caused by the mass refusal of employees to work. A strike usually takes place in response to employee grievances. Strikes became important during the industrial revolution, when mass labour became...

. Larkin timed the strike to take place in the middle of the Dublin Horse Show held by the Royal Dublin Society
Royal Dublin Society
The Royal Dublin Society was founded on 25 June 1731 to "to promote and develop agriculture, arts, industry, and science in Ireland". The RDS is synonymous with its main premises in Ballsbridge in Dublin, Ireland...

, when the inconvenience caused would be greatest and Murphy's business worst affected. At a pre-arranged time, the tram drivers and conductors literally walked off the trams, leaving them unattended. Led by Murphy, over four hundred of the city's employers retaliated by requiring their workers to sign a pledge not to be a member of the ITGWU and not to engage in sympathetic strikes
Sympathy strike
Secondary action is industrial action by a trade union in support of a strike initiated by workers in another, separate enterprise...



The resulting industrial dispute was the most severe in Ireland's history
History of Ireland
The first known settlement in Ireland began around 8000 BC, when hunter-gatherers arrived from continental Europe, probably via a land bridge. Few archaeological traces remain of this group, but their descendants and later Neolithic arrivals, particularly from the Iberian Peninsula, were...

. Employers in Dublin engaged in a lockout of their workers, employing blackleg labour from Britain
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and elsewhere in Ireland. Dublin's workers, amongst the poorest in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was the formal name of the United Kingdom during the period when what is now the Republic of Ireland formed a part of it....

, were forced to survive on £150,000 from the Trades Union Congress
Trades Union Congress
The Trades Union Congress is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in the United Kingdom, representing the majority of trade unions...

 (TUC) and other sources in Ireland, doled out dutifully by the ITGWU. A scheme whereby the children of Irish strikers would be temporarily looked after by British trade unionists was blocked by the Roman Catholic Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

, who protested that Catholic children would be subject to Protestant or atheist influences when in Britain. The Church supported the employers during the dispute, condemning Larkin as a socialist revolutionary
A revolutionary is a person who either actively participates in, or advocates revolution. Also, when used as an adjective, the term revolutionary refers to something that has a major, sudden impact on society or on some aspect of human endeavor.-Definition:...


Notably, Guinness
Guinness is a popular Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James's Gate, Dublin. Guinness is directly descended from the porter style that originated in London in the early 18th century and is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost...

, the largest employer and biggest exporter in Dublin, refused to lock out its workforce. It had a policy against sympathetic strikes; while it refused to join Murphy's group it sent £500 to the employers' fund. In turn, it expected its workers not to strike in sympathy, and six who did were dismissed. 400 of its staff were already ITGWU members, so it had a working relationship with the union. Larkin appealed to have the six reinstated, but without success.

The strikers used mass pickets and intimidation against strike breakers and the Dublin Metropolitan Police
Dublin Metropolitan Police
The Dublin Metropolitan Police was the police force of Dublin, Ireland, from 1836 to 1925, when it amalgamated into the new Garda Síochána.-19th century:...

 in turn baton charge
Baton charge
A baton charge is a coordinated tactic for dispersing crowds of people, usually used by police or military during public order situations. In certain countries, police are not authorised to use the tactic unless no other means can be practiced....

d worker's rallies. The DMP's attack on a union rally on Sackville Street (now known as O'Connell Street
O'Connell Street
O'Connell Street is Dublin's main thoroughfare. It measures 49 m in width at its southern end, 46 m at the north, and is 500 m in length...

) in August 1913 caused the deaths of two workers, James Nolan and John Byrne, and hundreds more were injured. This was provoked by the illegal appearance of James Larkin to speak out for the workers. It is still known in the Irish Labour movement as "Bloody Sunday" (despite two subsequent days in 20th century Ireland that are also described in this way). Another worker, Alice Brady, was later shot dead by a strike breaker while bringing home a food parcel from the union office while Michael Byrne, an ITGWU official from Dún Laoghaire
Dún Laoghaire
Dún Laoghaire or Dún Laoire , sometimes anglicised as "Dunleary" , is a suburban seaside town in County Dublin, Ireland, about twelve kilometres south of Dublin city centre. It is the county town of Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown County and a major port of entry from Great Britain...

 died shortly after being tortured in a police cell. In response, Larkin, his deputy James Connolly, and ex-British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

Captain (British Army and Royal Marines)
Captain is a junior officer rank of the British Army and Royal Marines. It ranks above Lieutenant and below Major and has a NATO ranking code of OF-2. The rank is equivalent to a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and to a Flight Lieutenant in the Royal Air Force...

 Jack White
Jack White (labour unionist)
Captain James Robert "Jack" White DSO was one of the co-founders of the Irish Citizen Army.-Early life:Jack White was born in 1879, at Whitehall, in Broughshane, County Antrim, Ireland...

 formed a worker's militia named the Irish Citizen Army
Irish Citizen Army
The Irish Citizen Army , or ICA, was a small group of trained trade union volunteers established in Dublin for the defence of worker’s demonstrations from the police. It was formed by James Larkin and Jack White. Other prominent members included James Connolly, Seán O'Casey, Constance Markievicz,...

 to protect workers' demonstrations.

For seven months the lockout affected tens of thousands of Dublin's workers and their families, with Larkin portrayed as the villain by Murphy's three main newspapers, the Irish Independent
Irish Independent
The Irish Independent is Ireland's largest-selling daily newspaper that is published in both compact and broadsheet formats. It is the flagship publication of Independent News & Media.-History:...

, the Sunday Independent
Sunday Independent
The Sunday Independent is a broadsheet Sunday newspaper published in Ireland by Independent News and Media plc. The newspaper is edited by Aengus Fanning, and is the biggest selling Irish Sunday newspaper by a large margin ; average circulation of 291,323 between June 2004 and January 2005,...

, and the Evening Herald
Evening Herald
The Evening Herald is a mid-market tabloid evening newspaper published in Dublin, Ireland by Independent News & Media. It is published Monday-Saturday, and has three editions — City Edition, City Final Edition and National Edition...

. Other leaders in the ITGWU at the time were James Connolly and William X. O'Brien
William X. O'Brien
William X. O'Brien was a politician and trade unionist in Ireland.Born in Clonakilty, County Cork, O'Brien moved with his family to Dublin in 1897, and quickly became involved in the Irish Socialist Republican Party...

, while influential figures such as Patrick Pearse
Patrick Pearse
Patrick Henry Pearse was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist and political activist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916...

, Countess Markievicz and William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

 supported the workers in the generally anti-Larkin media.

End of the Lockout

The lockout eventually concluded in early 1914 when the calls for a sympathetic strike in Britain from Larkin and Connolly were rejected by the TUC. Most workers, many of whom were on the brink of starvation, went back to work and signed pledges not to join a union. The ITGWU was badly damaged by its defeat in the Lockout, and was further hit by the departure of Larkin to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in 1914 and the execution of Connolly for his part in the nationalist Easter Rising
Easter Rising
The Easter Rising was an insurrection staged in Ireland during Easter Week, 1916. The Rising was mounted by Irish republicans with the aims of ending British rule in Ireland and establishing the Irish Republic at a time when the British Empire was heavily engaged in the First World War...

 in 1916. However, the union was re-built by William O'Brien and Thomas Johnson
Thomas Johnson (Irish politician)
Thomas Johnson was an Irish nationalist and Irish Labour Party leader. He was elected a Teachta Dála for Dublin County to the Third Dáil at the 1922 general election and was the leader of the Labour Party until 1927...

 and by 1919 its membership had surpassed that of 1913.

Although the actions of the ITGWU and the smaller UBLU were unsuccessful in achieving substantially better pay and conditions for the workers, they marked a watershed in Irish labour history. The principle of union action and workers' solidarity had been firmly established; no future employer would ever try to "break" a union in the way that Murphy attempted with the ITGWU. The lockout itself had been damaging to commercial businesses in Dublin, with many forced to declare bankruptcy.

W.B. Yeats' "September 1913"

September 1913, one of the most famous of W. B. Yeats' poems, was published in the Irish Times during the lockout.

External links

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