I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Breaking The Union

Breaking The Union

Padraig Yeates
A Capital in Conflict: Dublin City and the 1913 Lockout, edited by Francis Devine, Four Courts Press, 405 pp, €22.45, ISBN: 978-1907002106 This beautifully produced book is a feast for anyone interested in Dublin’s history. While the focus is on the 1913 Lockout it covers almost every aspect of life in the city. Francis Devine is an ideal editor for such a work and he produces a fine introductory chapter which ends, perhaps inevitably, by pointing out that the fundamental questions of collective bargaining and union recognition in the workplace which were at the heart of events back then remain unresolved a hundred years later. Colin Whitston looks at the British and international dimensions to the lockout and emphasises the importance of realising that the employer was often the aggressor in the industrial battles of the era. Employers frequently applied pressure to force down wages and drive up working hours while developing new fighting organisations to confront the threats from industrial unionism and syndicalism. We are so used to Jim Larkin and James Connolly being characterised as revolutionary firebrands that we forget that the lockout was instigated by William Martin Murphy as president of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce. He had founded the Dublin Employers’ Federation precisely for the purpose of smashing Larkinism, the Irish variant of syndicalism. Whitston does a good job of summarising international developments and pointing to tensions that existed within the labour movement. However he takes a relatively uncritical view of the effectiveness of syndicalism and the sympathetic strike tactic that lay at its heart. He also fails to analyse the important role played by the British state in the lockout and its aftermath. That said, his essay fills an important gap in the study of the conflict. “Every house should have a bathroom so that a man’s shirt need not be taken out of the pot for his dinner to be put into it,” Walter Carpenter told the Local Government Board Inquiry into the Housing Conditions of the Working Classes Inquiry in 1913. Lydia Carroll quotes the English-born sweep and socialist agitator at the start of her chapter covering public health and housing in Dublin. She makes excellent use of the material and provides a judicious assessment of Sir Charles Cameron, who was synonymous with public health policy in the city for almost sixty years. He would ultimately become a victim of his own longevity,…

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