James Connolly

2009-04-27_20-47-40_27042009616

“The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland, the cause of Ireland is the cause of labour.”

This bronze statue of James Connolly, the Irish Labour leader stands outside the east side of the Custom’s House in Dublin on  Beresford Place, opposite Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the Services, Industrial, Professional, and Technical Union (SIPTU) . Created by the artist Eamonn O’Doherty, it  was commissioned by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and erected in 1996.

He became active in the Scottish Socialist Federation and in 1896 moved to Dublin to take up the position of the Dublin Socialist Club which, under his leadership, was transformed into the Irish Socialist Republican Party. He returned to Edinburgh in 1902 and the year later emigrated to the USA where he became active in the socialist movement and the Industrial Workers of the World union (known as the “Wobblies”).

In 1910 he returned to Dublin where he joined the Socialist Party of Ireland. The following year he became organizer of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union in Belfast. In 1912 Connolly and fellow ITGWU leader, James Larkin, established the Irish Labour Party. He was also involved in setting up the Irish Citizen’s Army to defend  worker’s demonstrations from the police.

The GPO in O’Connell Street, Dublin – the centre of the fighting during the 1916 Easter Rising (with Jim Larkin’s statue in the foreground)

Although he was initially a committed socialist fighting for workers’ rights, he became increasingly involved in the Republican Movement and was one of the leaders of the ill fated Easter Rising in Dublin in 1916.  He was in command of the Republican HQ at the GPO, which was the focus of much of the fighting, and was severely wounded. After the failure of the uprising he was arrested and imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol. Sentenced to death with the other surviving leaders, he was carried on a stretcher to a courtyard in the prison, tied to a chair and shot.

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