Jim Larkin: The legendary activist who sowed the seed of discontent to industrial workers in Ireland

The period between 1909 and 1914 marked a heightened uprising from the working class in Britain and Ireland. The new breed of activists in the country had planted a seed of discontent among the working class. The general workers in Dublin received the lowest wages and their working conditions were extremely poor. Most of them lived from hand to mouth.

Unfortunately, there were a few trade unions in the country that the workers could join. Only ten percent of the workers belonged to a trade union. Majority of the people belonged Britain trade Unions that barely cared for their workers’ welfare.

Jim Larkin was the most influential activist of his time. He was born in Liverpool in 1876 to Irish parents who were immigrants. They lived in slums in Liverpool where life was extremely hard. Jim Larkin’s could not afford to give him a good education. Learn more about Jim Larkin: http://www.rte.ie/centuryireland/index.php/articles/jim-larkin-released-from-prison and http://www.irishexaminer.com/lifestyle/artsfilmtv/books/the-definitive-biography-of-big-jim-larkin-372254.html

As a result, he was forced to become a casual laborer at a young age. Jim was employed by the Liverpool dock as a general worker.

After a few years, the managers at the dock realized that he had special leadership abilities. He was promoted to the post of a foreman. Jim Larkin continued work even harder.

His workmates had nicknamed him ‘the rusher’ because of how he used to rush the workers. He neither smoked nor drank alcohol. Unlike other foremen in the dock, Jim never received any bribes to give men work. He believed in equality for everyone. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and James Larkin – Wikipedia

While working in Liverpool, Jim was dissatisfied with how the employers treated their employees. What saddened him most was to realize that there were a few trade unions that would fight for the rights of the workers. He joined the National Union of Dock Laborers but he was kicked out after leading several industrial demonstrations.

He was moved to Dublin in 1907 where he founded the Irish Transporters and General Workers Union. With the new union, Jim Larkin sought to unite all the workers in Ireland into one movement.

Many people joined the union hoping that it would help them bargain for better working conditions. The ITGWU was responsible for the 1913 lockout where more than 10,000 industrial workers downed their tools for more than eight months.

The lockout was triggered by the sacking of one hundred workers who had joined the ITGWU that was led by Jim Larkin. The demonstrations worsened when the police started using excessive force to the striking workers.

Jim organized his people to form a force that would neutralize that created by the employers and the police. Eventually, they won and the employers gave in to their demands.