Jim Larkin: Irish Folk Hero And Labor Leader

Jim Larkin is one of the most celebrated Irish folk heroes in history. Born in the slums of Liverpool, England in 1876, Larkin worked a variety of jobs as a child to help support the family.

Although Larkin had very little education, he was able to rise to the position of dock foreman. He was an avowed socialist and committed to fair pay and working conditions for all people. He joined the National Union of Dock Laborers (INUDL) and concentrated on labor organizing in 1905.

He became heavily involved in labor and continued to organize strikes. In Glasgow, Scotland, he led a protest against Chinese labor, reasoning that it would take away the livelihood of many Irishmen.

Larkin founded the Irish Transport and General Worker’s Union (ITGW) in 1907 after moving to Dublin.

He continued to travel the country and organized workers in Cork, Waterford and Dublin. In 1908, under the INUDL program, Larkin implemented a program that consisted of eight hour days, pension for people at the age of 60, national means of transport and work provisions for unemployed people.

After forming the Irish Labor Party, along with James Connolly in 1912, he led the most significant labor strike in Ireland’s history: The 1913 Lockout. More than 100,000 Irish workers went on strike against deplorable working conditions, low pay and the right to unionize.

In the end, hunger and loss of financial support forced workers to sign employee pledges. Not all strikers got their jobs back. Some were forced to enlist in the military and fight in World War I.

After spending time in America, he was deported back to Ireland in 1920. He continued to work on the behalf of Irish people and even joined the Irish Labor Party in 1945. Larkin died in 1947. A statue of Larkin was erected on O”Donnell Street in Dublin.

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