The revolt of the Ennis labourers: Workers' Liberty 3/35

The Revolt Of The Ennis Labourers - Workers' Liberty 3/35:

Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:37

By Sean Matgamna

Above: a group of stonebreakers on the side of the road outside Ennis, County Clare, in the late 30s, on “relief work”. Stones were broken with sledges and hammers into small chips for road making.
“I’d sooner go breaking stones” was a saying among these men, meaning that the work to which “breaking stones” was preferable was the world’s worst. All of these men will have been members of the Ennis United Labourers’ Union. The man on the right with a cigarette in his mouth is Tommy Mahony, one of the defendants in the trial of 24 Ennis labourers in 1934 described here, and the


Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:55

In the evolution of civilisation, the progress of the fight for national liberty of any subject nation must, perforce, keep pace with the struggle for liberty of the most subject class in that nation.

James Connolly

The children with whom I have played, the men and women with whom I have eaten
Have had masters over them, have been under the lash of masters,
and though gentle, have served churls.

Patrick Pearse

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood.

Thomas Gray


The economic earthquakes that for three years now, from 2008, have

1. 1933. Ennis: the town. Background: Ireland's two revolutions

Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:50

Ennis, Christmas Eve 1933

On Christmas Eve, 24 December 1933, in the West of Ireland town of Ennis, County Clare, members of the Gardai visited 26 labourers. They handed each one of them a summons to appear in Court on charges of intimidation, assault, and conspiracy, in mid-January 1934.

All of those summoned were members of the Ennis United Labourers’ Union. The charges arose out of a mass picket of 250 to 300 members of the union at a quarry outside the town. The total membership of the union was about 500, all of them in Ennis and its three-mile surrounding area, which the union claimed as

2. Communism in Ireland

Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:49

Communism in Ireland

What of communism in Ireland? James Connolly, whose whole history suggests that he would have rallied to the Russian Revolution and joined in the work of building the new Communist International, was of course dead 18 months before the Bolshevik Revolution. Jim Larkin, who would join the Communist International, was in America, and in the last part of his stay there, in jail. He would not return to Ireland until 1923.

Connolly had led many of those who would have rallied to the Third International and worked to build an Irish section into an alliance with revolutionary

3. The Ennis bourgeoisie and the Ennis workers

Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:48

The Ennis bourgeoisie

The fact that the Irish national bourgeoisie did not lead the national movement in 1916 and after did not inhibit them from from creating a thickly mythological account of Irish history as a nationalist, or ethnic-sectarian, heroic and unrelenting struggle for freedom.

The working class in nationalist Ireland, left-wingers and socialists no less than others, accepted this mythological middle-class history. The Marxist James Connolly was made over into “the labour leader”, and a plaster-of-paris dead saint in the pantheon of the stultified Irish bourgeoisie.

Public life,

4. De Valera’s “Second Revolution” and the working class

Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:46

De Valera’s “Second Revolution” and the working class

In power after the war of independence and the civil war, the Irish bourgeoisie cut back on the elements of a welfare state that had been developed in the old United Kingdom.

A wit said of the Sinn Fein faction that had won the civil war and had taken the name Cumann na nGaedheal (clan or gathering of the Irish): “come in a gale, go in a storm”.

The Free State government, faced with the great international crisis that began with the Wall Street crash of October 1929, whipped up a storm before they finally went. In 1931 they brought in a

5. Ennis: 1932 to the General Strike of 1934

Published on: Thu, 17/11/2011 - 17:45


Workers in the Free State faced a world of economic stagnation. In Clare the farmers were the new aristocracy, even though there were poor farmers in the west. The state was most responsive to their needs.

The shopkeepers were the bourgeoisie, and the proletarians divided into two distinct groups: those who had regular employment (transport workers, workers in big merchant stores, workers in institutions), who were badly paid but paid regularly, and the great pool of casual labourers who had no regular work and frequently for long periods had no work at all. In Ennis there was a great

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