Saturday, August 15, 2015

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James Connolly Talk In Dublin A Resounding Success

Patrick Donohoe, Chair of the Padraig Pearse Society Clondalkin/Tallaght, with a report on the recent ‘Politics of James Connolly’ talk in the National History Museum Dublin, organised by Dublin 1916 Societies.

For the first time the National History Museum was packed full for the Dublin 1916 Societies’ monthly educational discussion, with Tommy McKearney giving a talk on the life of James Connolly. Tommy charted his life from his childhood in the slums of Edinburgh’s Cowgate area, which was dubbed ‘Little Ireland’, telling how Connolly came to Ireland with a job vacancy in the Dublin Social Clubs as a secretary, which paid £1 a week. These Clubs later evolved into the Irish Socialist Republican Party (ISRP). Tommy told how in 1903 Connolly famously travelled to the USA with no immediate plans on what he would do there but not surprisingly immersed himself in socialist agitation. It was there he wrote some of his best writings, most notably ‘Labour in Irish History’, his extremely critical take on Daniel O’Connell, a demigod-like figure at the time.

1910 saw Connolly’s return to Ireland at a time of huge social unrest, a mere three years prior to the famous Lock-Out of 1913. And it was no surprise he was a close confidant of Big Jim Larkin. Connolly, along with another ex-British soldier Jack White, famously in response to the Lock-Out of ’13, and the brutality of the Dublin Metropolitan Policy, set-up the Irish Citizen Army (ICA) – who would later join with the Irish Volunteers on Easter Week of 1916 to strike a blow against British rule in Ireland. Tommy of course charted the period around 1916 and his subsequent execution as he was carted into Kilmainham Jail having been shot in battle.

With Tommy being a passionate believer and advocate for the politics of James Connolly, having been a trade union activist much of his life, so it was no surprise when he gave a contemporary slant to proceedings, making a case in modern-day Ireland for the politics of James Connolly, echoing Connolly’s assertion that the only incorruptible force in Irish society was the Irish working class and that only they themselves could liberate themselves from the capitalist system ranged against them. A number of left wing agitators, who went into the system only to be corrupted themselves, were referenced, those involved often becoming worse than the people they were once fighting.

Tommy, quite importantly, defended Connolly from criticism he receives from many on the left, even to this day, for aligning himself and fighting with many who were not of his ilk and would have been to the right economically and socially. Quoting Lenin, who advised (I’m paraphrasing) that if we were to wait for the ‘pure revolution’ we would be waiting forever. Connolly was pragmatic and realised the first step to achieving socialism could only be obtained by ridding Ireland of imperialist rule first.


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All-in-all, it was a fantastic talk and a lively Q&A followed, with Tommy answering all questions diligently. It was important while talking about the politics of such a pivotal figure in Irish history to make the case in contemporary terms for their relevance today, in an age of austerity where we still see the poor paying for the mistakes of the elite. We’d like to thank Tommy for giving his time to give the talk and would advise anyone looking for trade union representation to check out the Independent Workers’ Union @ www.union.ie.

2 comments :

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