Extracts from the Annual Reports

Extracts from ITUC Conference on May 31st , June 1st and June 2nd, 1909, at Limerick the Minor Ulster Hall, Belfast

On Unemployment

From the Report of the ITUC Executive: At their meeting on the 1st August last your Committee considered the situation in Ireland as regards unemployment. The reports presented to them from the principal industrial districts indicated that during the then approaching winter distress from want of employment would be even more acute than the preceding seasons. They thereupon adopted a resolution urging that where distress committees under the Unemployed Workmen’s Act had not then been set up, steps should immediately be taken to secure whatever advantages that Act affords pending further legislation; calling upon the Irish members to secure more liberal grants from the Treasury for Irish distress committees; and directing the attention of the President of the Local Government Board “to the abnormal distress from want of employment which, exists at present, and is certain to be accentuated during the ensuing winter in Ireland.” And at their meeting in September your Committee resolved to petition Parliament in favour of the Labour Party’s Right to Work Bill.

The King’s Speech at the opening of the present Session contained the promise of a measure for “the better organisation of the labour market through a system of co-ordinated labour exchanges with which other schemes for dealing with unemployment may subsequently be associated”; and a reference to the Report of the Poor Law Commission, whose recommendations “are engaging the careful attention of my Government.” As an amendment to the Address the Labour Party moved: “That in view of the serious distress arising from lack of work, the proposals of the Government are altogether inadequate for effectively dealing with either the root causes or the evils arising out of unemployment.” The amendment was defeated by a majority of 104 votes—viz, 205 for, 101 against.

Subsequently, on the 30th April, the Labour Party again submitted their Unemployed Workmen (“Right to Work “) Bill for second reading. Your Committee, on the 24th April, communicated with Mr J E Redmond, MP, and Mr J B Lonsdale, M.P., requestingthe attendance and support of the Irish, Nationalist and Unionist Members for the Bill. Mr Lonsdale failed to reply, but Mr Redmond wrote that the Nationalist members “who are present will support the Labour Party in bringing forward the Bill.” The Government, however, opposed, and the measure was defeated by a majority of 115.

The following is how the Irish members voted:—

For the Bill: Abraham; Ambrose; Barry, E; Boland; Burke; Delaney; Devlin; Duffy; Esmonde; Ginnell; Halpin; Hayden; Hazleton; Hogan; Joyce; Kennedy, V P; Kettle; Kilbride; Lardner; McKean; Meagher; Meehan, F F; Murphy, J; Murphy, N J; Nannetti; Nolan; O’Brien, K; O’Connor, J; O’Doherty; O’Dowd; O’Kelly, C; O’Malley; Philips; Power; White.—35.

Against the Bill.—Russell; Barrie; Clark; Craig, C; Craig, J; Fetherstonhaugh; Hamilton, Marquess of Lonsdale; Wolff.—9.

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On disputed political allegiances

The Chairman said they would now take up the Report of the Parliamentary Committee, and he asked the Congress to consider it patiently in a quiet manner. .. The Secretary then read over the various headings in the Report. In the section dealing with the deputation to Mr Redmond on Saturday, 13th February last, Mr Farren said he took exception to a paragraph in the Report in the speech of Mr Stewart, which was given [who was reported] to have said: “In asking the Irish Party to go to Parliament and assist them in securing ameliorative measures, he was speaking on behalf of the Sinn Feiners, for at the last Congress they had no less than three Dublin Sinn Feiners competing for seats on the Parliamentary Committee, and one of them moved two resolutions demanding legislation, and they were supported by the other two.”

Now, he objected to any member of the Parliamentary Committee going before the Chief Secretary, and saying he represented any political party.
The Chairman (interrupting)—It was Mr. John Redmond, and not the Chief Secretary.

Mr Farren said it was all the same to him. He objected to any member of a trades union appealing to anybody as a member of a political party.
Mr Stewart said he would explain. He was not responsible for the way or form in which the gentlemen of the Press reported his remarks. Gentlemen of the Press summarise these remarks, and put what appears to them the salient points. But what appeared in the paragraph was substantially correct, but incomplete to the extent that in speaking on behalf of the Trades Union Congress he said to Mr Redmond and his colleagues that they represented a very composite body of men, that they represented men who were trade unionists in the ordinary sense of the word, men who were Socialists, Sinn Feiners, United Irish Leaguers, Tories and Orangemen, and in appealing to them to take action in Parliament, to secure the passage of measures that this Congress demanded, they were representing the views of all these bodies—the views of all sections of labour in Ireland.

Mr Farren accepted the explanation.

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Jim Larkin barred from ITUC

On the adoption of the Parliamentary Committee’s Report Mr P T Daly moved to amend the report by omitting all under the heading ” Dock Labourers Dispute.” He said it was a matter of national importance. It was the first time in his recollection of a Trades Congress that anything like the exclusion of Mr Larkin had happened. It was a queer instance of impartiality surely, that there were two separate organisations of bakers represented with no objection by anyone, while when there were two organisations of dockers one was excluded. They elected James Larkin last year on their Parliamentary Committee. He was expelled from that Parliamentary Committee by his colleagues there who had no more right than himself to be there. Surely they were going to have some common sense.

Mr William Murphy (Brushmakers Branch, Dublin), in seconding Mr Daly’s motion, said that Mr Larkin had organised to such an extent as they had never been before. He proceeded to give the entire history of the recent carter’s strike associated with Mr Larkin’s name, the result of which, he said, was that Mr. Larkin started an organisation of his own and broke away from the National Union of Dock Labourers, which, he said, was an English institution, and there was no necessity for Irishmen to be subscribing to English funds.

Mr Greig (Amalgamated Union of Labour, Belfast), said that, in his opinion, a great deal more importance was attached to this discussion than it was worth (loud cries of “Question,” and disorder). It was not for the Congress to join in personalities. Mr Larkin broke away before the Committee had time to consider the matter, and their action was in support of no one person, but of trades unionism. There was a lot of dissension among Irish workers; but if this Congress was going to say that Mr Larkin and his section could break away from the Amalgamated Union, then it was good-bye to trades unionism in Ireland. The Congress should not concern “themselves with sectional differences, and they had no right to discuss it. The point the Congress had to decide was whether unity should be maintained or not. Let the Transport Union settle their differences with the National Union of Dock Labourers, and then the Congress would decide the matter.

Mr. Stewart (Shop Assistants Union, Dublin), said that Mr Larkin had, in the first instance, gone to Belfast as the henchman of Mr Sexton, the General Secretary of the National Union of Dock Labourers, and it was only when dictation would not be allowed that Mr Larkin fell into the arms of Mr P T Daly and some Socialists and Sinn Feiners. The division only took place on some personal or other ground, but not on the principles of trades unionism. This was a question of deliberately dividing trades unionism in the interests of a political party. Mr Daly and his political faction were attempting to smash the combination of trades unionism in Ireland, and if they succeeded in capturing that Congress they would eventually do so. It was now the feeling of the labour movement that every step should be taken to prevent the multiplication of organisations affecting the same trade or industry.

Councillor McCarron (Amalgamated Tailors, Londonderry), said that the Parliamentary Committee were forced to take up the attitude which they had done towards Mr Larkin, and they regretted that it had become their duty to do so. They were asked to admit that Transport Workers’ Union. What guarantee had they that that organisation would not split up into further factions in either Dublin or Cork, and then step in and demand recognition from the Trades Union Congress? They, as trades’ unionists, were not opposed to the formation of an Irish trades union, but they should not allow the principles of trades’ unionism to be disregarded… [He] spoke in support of the action of the Committee, which he could not but perceive was of vital moment to trades unionism in Ireland. The decision of the Congress might mean the wiping out of their Committee and trades unionism, but the members had a duty to discharge, and they would not shirk it. As to Mr Larkin being expelled, it was the hardest duty they had to discharge. But as a matter of fact he was elected as a representative of the National Dockers, and he had ceased to be a member of that union.

A delegate said that was a quibble.
Councillor McCarron said it was no quibble, but the fact. They all recognised that Mr Larkin did good work for the dockers of Dublin, but did that justify his secession from the parent association? He said not. He should have fought his cause at the proper place—the hall where the dockers discussed their business at their annual Congress. .. No man should organise or carry out a strike without the permission of the Executive of his Union, otherwise, good-bye to good government in trades unionism. The democracy of the two countries and of Scotland should not fight—they could not afford to fight. They were brothers no matter what might be the colour of their skin—no matter at what altar they worshipped.
Mr John Murphy (Typographical Society, Belfast) said Mr Larkin was a great organiser, but he must be boss, or all the fat would be in the fire. If the delegates voted against the Parliamentary Committee, then the Congress would cease to represent Trades Unionism in Ireland. They were at the parting of the ways, and they would wreck or capture it for a another organisation.

Mr Daly’s amendment—for 39 ; against 49. The president declared the amendment lost.

Mr. D. R. Campbell then moved:—

That a committee of seven, consisting of three members of the Parliamentary Committee and four delegates, be appointed to inquire into the cause and development of the dispute in the National Union of Dock Labourers, and the subsequent secession of a large number of members, and the formation of the Irish Transport Workers’ Union.”


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