Dublin Lockout exhibition opens
Published 21/08/2013 | 13:12
The record of Jim Larkin's arrest and a note the trade union leader scribbled to activists before his detention are part of an exhibition commemorating Ireland's greatest industrial dispute.
The Dublin Lockout opened almost exactly 100 years to the day since drivers and conductors left their trams on Dublin's busy O'Connell Street.
Their action eventually led to more than 20,000 workers being involved in strikes and lockouts until January 1914.
Images, films, memorabilia and interactive touchscreens form part of the exhibition at the National Library of Ireland (NLI), which reveals the experiences of those who lived through the conflict.
David Begg, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu), said: "The Dublin Lockout exhibition gives the public an important opportunity to gain an insight into the thinking of some of the key protagonists in this epic struggle as well as the hard day-to-day experiences of ordinary workers and their families.
"They are bound to be struck - as I have been - by the heroic determination of the workers and their communities to achieve decent treatment and fairness at work and, ultimately, radical social change and advancement.
"Critical to events of 100 years ago was the right of workers to organise and to collectively bargain - an issue that has yet to be resolved, along with the timeless pursuit of decent work."
At the time of the dispute one-third of the capital's population lived in abject poverty in either tenements or cottages, while almost a quarter of Dublin's city councillors were slum landlords.
The tramworkers' action was sparked when William Martin Murphy - president of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the Dublin United Tramways Company - sacked and replaced more than 300 tramway staff suspected of being members of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, led by Labour Party co-founder Larkin.
Exhibition items on display include Larkin's hastily-scribbled advice to union colleagues before his arrest urging that "all must work together" and details of that arrest in the Dublin Metropolitan Police records, on loan from the Garda Museum.
Opened by Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, it runs until March.
He said the Dublin Lockout was a monumental event in Ireland's history.
"It was the largest in a series of labour disputes in the period, including a famous lockout in my own town of Wexford, which ended somewhat more successfully for the labour side," he said.
"The backdrop to this rising is the appalling conditions of tenement Dublin.
"It may be a coincidence that 20,000 workers were impacted by the lockout and in a city where 20,000 families lived in single rooms, but it speaks its own truth."