On 16 November 1913, the Bristol Trades Council held a public meeting at the Empire Music Hall in support of the workers locked out by their employers in Dublin. Some 2,000 people turned up to hear William Partridge of the Dublin Trades Council condemn the attempt to destroy the militant Irish Transport and General Workers Union and starve 25,000 workers, men and women into surrender. The Dublin employers had the full backing of the Liberal government with Bristol MP, Augustine Birrell, Chief Secretary of Ireland, playing a leading role. For six months the Dublin workers held out in the face of police violence, press lies and clerical condemnation, sustained by the solidarity of the British labour movement, only to be betrayed by the TUC when victory was in sight. The TUC’s refusal to black goods from Dublin in December left the Dublin workers isolated and condemned to defeat.
This great historic struggle deserves to be remembered and holds important lessons for the struggles we face today.
John Newsinger is Professor of Modern History at Bath Spa University. His most recent books are Fighting Back: The American Working Class in the 1930s, The Blood Never Dried: A People’s History of the British Empire, and Jim Larkin and the Great Dublin Lockout.