THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: James Larkin’s return as power struggle for power erupts in union

From the News Letter, June 2, 1924

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 6:00 am
The Socialist agitator James Larkin during the Dublin lockout in 1913. Picture: News Letter archives

James Larkin, the Socialist agitator, had arrived back in Dublin on Saturday, May 31, 1924, travelling via Holyhead and Kingstown, after an absence in England three or four days, reported the News Letter on this day in 1924.

He left Dublin without warning on Tuesday last, the day before an application for writ of attachment against him was to be made in the Law Courts.

The News Letter noted: “Larkin appears to have returned at an interesting moment. It will be recalled that, in the early hours of Thursday morning last, 250 men, supporters of the Executive Committee of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, ejected from Liberty Hall, the headquarters of the union, a number of Larkin’s followers who had seized the building some days previously.

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“The Larkinites alleged that their ejection was carried out by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department; but the the new occupants of the hall deny, stating that ‘what we have to do, we do ourselves’.”

A statement was issued on the Saturday by the new “garrison” in which the following sentences occurred: “Wednesday night’s occupation of Liberty Hall was the outcome of an organised movement of the ordinary membership of the union in Dublin. The members who did the job are not stopping at the mere occupation of the hall. They have formed themselves into definite organisation, of course within the union, in defence of the union’s activities and its members.”

The statement went on on to announce that the organisation mentioned is called the “One Big Union Defence League”, that sections had been formed in different parts of the city, and that a Provisional Council of five members had been appointed.

The immediate aims of the League were: “To protect the members of the union from the terrorist tactics and mob methods of intimidation which have recently been adopted by the minority which seeks to establish one man dictatorship over the IT and GWU.”

In conclusion, it was pointed out that “it should be clearly understood that any of Larkin’s friends who interfere with the union or its members will find the League as effective outside as it is inside Liberty Hall”.