Extracts from the Annual Reports

Extracts from ITUC Conference on May 27th, 28th and 29th, 1912 in the Town Hall, Clonmel

On proposed Gerrymander of Workers’ Vote in Home Rule Parliament

Michael J O’Lehane, ITUC President, criticises the proposed electoral boundaries in the Home Rule Bill: I must express strong disappointment at the fact that, in the proposed meas-ure, large urban centres are ignored, and instead of giving representation to towns such as Clonmel, Tralee, Wexfordroposals because large urban centres are ignored, and instead of giving representation to towns such as Clonmel, Tralee, Wexford, Drogheda, Dundalk, Sli-go, Portadown, Lurgan, and Ballymena, it is suggested that the important towns of Galway, Newry, and Kilkenny are to be deprived of direct representation (applause). This is a pro-posal to which we strongly object, and we must insist upon its amendment; the urban areas must from the outset get due representation (cheers).

There are other phases also of the Home Rule Bill to which we must take exception, notably, the nominated Senate. This anomaly, WHICH IS BUT A RELIC OF THE OLD ASCENDANCY CLASS LEGISLATION and one which the people of Great Britain are about getting rid of, is now to be foisted on Ireland. Believing as we do in government by the people and for the people, we are altogether opposed to any Senate which is nominated or elected on a restricted franchise (applause). Two other most objectionable features in the Bill are the eternal and ever-recurring “veto” and the “safeguards.” I may say that we consider these undesirable and unnecessary, either in so far as religion or labour are concerned.
The Irish workers would prefer to take their chance on these questions, and they are also willing to work out their own salvation, as I have no doubt they are quite capable of doing (hear, hear). In view of the contemplated change of government, and indeed under any circumstances, I think the time has arrived when the Trades Union movement should be put on a sounder, a more concrete, and a more homogeneous footing.
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On British Medical Benefits to be withheld from Ireland

Michael J O’Lehane, ITUC President: On the question of medical benefits, an amount of correspondence passed, and, whilst those who advocated their elimination stated that this decision was based entirely upon public opinion in Ireland, we, having ascertained the feelings of the workers, as well as having had expressions of opinion from many public bodies, were satisfied that no such public opinion existed (hear, hear) This view we endeavoured to impress upon the Irish representatives, but unfortunately without avail, as the result of which the Irish workers are deprived of medical benefits.

And what do we get in lieu of this deprivation Those who are in receipt of 15s weekly or over get one penny per week—not at all adequate compensation : while in the case of those in receipt of 9s weekly or under, NO COMPENSATION WHATEVER is received for the loss of medical benefits. We are aware, of course, of the difficulties with which the Irish Party were confronted in dealing with this matter, and of the very strong opposition raised to the extension of the Act to Ireland; but, taking everything into consideration, I feel that, in shearing the measure of the medical benefits, it has been deprived of one of its most popular and essential parts (cheers).

Independent administration… was demanded and promised, and everybody in Ireland was given to understand that independent administration we were to have. During the final stages of the debate, on the night of November 14th, the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that “not one penny of the money CONTRIBUTED IN IRELAND WOULD CROSS THE ENGLISH CHANNEL.” Notwithstanding all this there has since been an effort made to deprive the Irish workers of independent administration—an effort which must be combated and defeated (applause). But, with the exception of the defects which I have mentioned, the Insurance Act is, in my opinion, one of the best and most far-reaching measures for the amelioration of the workers that has been enacted in our time. On the whole, I think it is a humane and honest attempt to improve the social and economic condition of the masses, and to create, as it were, a more healthy equilibrium (hear, hear).

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On Unemployment and the Minimum Wage

Michael J O’Lehane, ITUC President: In addition to the health portion, it also deals partially with unemployment, and is a recognition of the duty of the State to deal with those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. The advance, we may presume, from one stage to another is short, and it is not too much to hope that difficulties will be bridged and a progressive policy put into execution in the immediate future.
Those who state that it is a very difficult problem to deal with the unemployment question have many remedies at their hands … They have reafforestation, drainage, and many other works of a reproductive character, which, when scientifically and judiciously handled, would give employment to a far greater number than those who are now seeking it (applause). UNTIL THIS PROBLEM IS SOLVED THERE CAN BE NO REST in the Labour world.

This brings me to another very important question—it is that of inadequate remuneration for employment. Latterly we have heard a grea in regard to the establishment of a minimum wage for the miners. The time has arrived, I think, when there must be a universal demand for the establishment of a fair minimum wage in all callings. The farm labourer, the docker, the factory worker, the shop assistant, etc, all have their serious grievance upon this question. The establishment of such a wage would go far to prevent the terrible evils of sweating which are still rampant in some of our industrial centres, and which, notwithstanding the futile efforts of the Wages Board—extremely limited in its operations—are still as prevalent as they were 15 or 20 years ago (applause).

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On the independent representation of Labour

Mr James Connolly (Belfast Branch Irish Transport Workers’ Union) moved: Resolved—That the independent representation of Labour upon all public boards be, and is hereby, in-cluded amongst the objects of this Congress; that one day at least be hereafter set apart at our annual gathering for the discussion of all questions pertaining thereto ; that the affiliat-ed bodies be asked to levy their members 1s per annum for the necessary expenses,and that the Parliamentary Committee be instructed to take all possible action to give effect politically to this resolution.

He said Ireland had been deprived of the greatest of all the benefits of the Insurance Act—the medical benefit—and that was the one benefit on which there was no divergence of opin-ion amongst the working classes (hear, hear). There was no use in blaming either the Home Rule Partv or the Unionist Party for this discrimination against Ireland. The real reason for it lay in the fact that they in Ireland had no organised means of expressing themselves politi-cally. In the new groupings and alignments that were going to take place in Ireland, where were the workers to be? They could not blind their eyes to the fact that the proposed change in
the government of the country would mean that the old parties were going to be disrupted, and he asked, as a result of the new arrangement, what part were the workers going to take ?

They were not going to tack themselves on to some political party of their masters in order that they might swell the fortunes and help the ambitions of their employers. When the rep-resentatives of Ireland came to meet in the old historic building in Dublin, which they had heard so much about, were the workers to be theonly class that was not to be represented? (hear, hear).

He would ask them to be ready to enter the new body to represent a definite organised labour opinion (applause)J The years in which they would be waiting for Home Rule should syn-chronise with the preparation of labour for Home Rule (applause). They all felt the disad-vantage, and he might say the humiliation, involved in the fact that the working classes of Ireland were practically the only workers in any country in Europe to-day that had not a def-inite organised method of expressing its view upon the political field.

Mr Moore (Belfast) seconded the resolution.

Mr James Larkin, in supporting the motion, said there was no argument against a policy such as was outlined in the resolution. In that resolution they had a lever to do their own work. They were not humbugged in the least by people who said that Home Rule meant the mille-nium, but they believed that Home Rule would give them an opportunity of expressing themselves physically and mentally (applause). They should be ready to do their own work, ready to show their countrymen the way to take full advantages of their opportunities, to fol-low the road which took them to the goal for which they laboured and for which they hoped.

The sun was rising, and the opportunity was now given them to prepare the way to enjoy its effulgence (hear, hear). They should remember that it would be too late to prepare when the battle-note was struck (applause).

Mr Rimmer (Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants) said that in view of the Osborne judgment he would not vote either for or against the motion, but would remain neutral. The members of his society were forbidden to take any part politically through their branches or through affiliation to political bodies. He was, at the same time, of the opinion that the workers should take every precaution to safeguard their interests (hear, hear).

Mr Greig (Amalgamated Union of Labour, Belfast) said the resolution was undoubtedly one
upon which very fine speeches and appeals to sentiments might be made (laughter). They were there to look to the practical and not to the sentimental side. If the resolution was car-ried it would have a very disturbing effect on trades unions, and it would lead to the shed-ding of many members (hear, hear). What they were going to do was to ask their members to take up questions upon which they were divided (hear, hear). They were all agreed as
to the necessity for combination, but he thought the resolution was premature and should be left over until they knew exactly where they were (applause).

Mr W E Hill (Railway Clerks) said it was the duty of leaders to lead, and if labour had not a definite policy, they could not expect ever to bring the rank and file up to the level of that policy (hear, hear). Referring to the Osborne judgment, he said there was no use waiting for it to be reversed. If it were not reversed by the time that it was necessary to put this resolu-tion in operation then our Irish Labour Party must be formed and supported in spite of that judgment (hear, hear).

They should always remember that, if they wanted their work done well, they should re-member that the only way was to do it themselves (applause). Events were moving rapidly, and they should be prepared to take advantage of their moving and help to quicken them (hear, hear). The situation was fraught with hope, and they must have confidence in their own strength, and take full advantage of their power. He strongly supported the resolution (applause).

Mr Cody (Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants, Dublin), said he would oppose the resolution. He had also been a strong supporter of labour interests, but he would never again support a Labour Party in the City of Dublin. He had been a victim of the railway strike in August, and he succeeded in getting a position in the Corporation, but because he supported the United Irish League candidate as against Mr Larkin, the Socialist, the Labour Party ob-jected because his name was not on the Labour Bureau.

That was not the real reason why he lost the position, but because he simply had the courage of his convictions. The Labour Party in Dublin were as great tyrants as the Czar of Russia, and Mr Larkin had him hunted and spied on and banned in the City of Dublin, and had made him a victim of trade unionism. He (Mr Cody) was popular with the Labour Party in Dublin when the name of Larkin stunk in their nostrils.

Mr Larkin said they should require Mr Cody to prove his statements or one or other of them should withdraw from the Congress. Mr Cody claimed to speak for the railway servants, but he (Mr Larkin) challenged him to meet him before the members of that body and take their verdict as between the two of them (applause). He was elected a Labour representative in Dublin on the straight ticket as against all other parties (hear, hear). He had been called a Socialist, but he had also been called an Atheist and an Anarchist. He was a Socialist, but he had never in the course of his life deliberately injured any man.

Mr Cody was an Orangeman, but, strange to say this disinterested individual, a trades union-ist, worked for the United Irish League candidate against him when he was fighting in the labour interest. He was getting 16s 6d a week strike pay from his Union, and he was acting as foreman over Corporation employees at Drumcondra. His name was not on the Labour Bureau, and the committee had not appointed him.

There was a rule under the Act and the regulations in connection with it that he should be registered in the office of the Distress Committee, but Cody was not registered at all in that office. He (the speaker) had gone into the office of the Corporation with his colleagues, three of whom were delegates to that Congress, and, although they knew that Cody was em-ployed
in the department, they could find no record of his name. They found that he was working, but under a name that was not Cody.
He had been sent into the Corporation to put down jobbery, and he had done what he was pledged to do. He would have done the same if the culprit had been his own brother (ap-plause). The Corporation of Dublin had a rule for registration in their Labour Bureau. It was one of the things which they, as labour men, heartily approved of. Cody got his job through his having been a “ward-heeler.”

Mr Cody —No. No.
Mr Larkin —Oh, yes it was. Cody had been appointed through the instrumentality of Alder-man J J Farrell, who was the President of the Dublin Corporation Labourers’ Trades Union,
although his action in this instance was dead against the interests of that body. It was, he added, for those reasons that he got Mr Cody’s services dispensed with.

Mr Greig said that it was not necessary that the Congress should hear all the details of a per-sonal matter.

The Chairman said an attack had been made on Mr Larkin, a serious charge had been lev-elled against him and the Labour Party in Dublin, and his explanation should be allowed (applause).

Mr Campbell (Belfast) said that he rose at the same time as Mr Cody, but gave way to him. He would not, however, have done so if he had had any idea that the unpleasant incident which had just been enacted was contemplated (hear, hear). He represented a body before which he was arraigned, indicted, and 16 Nineteenth Annual Irish Trades Congress.
brought to judgment for having the temerity at the last Congress to support a somewhat simi-lar resolution to that now under discussion. Now he came, however, instructed to support the
resolution by the very body before which he was arraigned for his action last year (ap-plause).

It had been thrown in their teeth that if they were men they would have their own representa-tives. They had proved that the Nationalist Party would not support their interests if there were stronger interests at work. They had proved that the Unionist Party paid little attention to their interests at any time, and they had proved that the British Labour Party would only help them at certain times. They had got to do their own work for themselves (loud ap-plause).

Mr Whitley (Belfast), referring to the incident between Mr Larkin and Mr Cody, said they should be careful to conduct their debates in Congress in such a manner as that the outside public or a powerful hostile Press could have nothing to say to them. Delegates should exer-cise a little forethought before making remarks against another. In reference to the resolu-tion, he said that it would be a better plan to send the resolution back to the societies for the purpose of eliciting their opinions on the matter. It had been shown that Irish workers dif-fered not only on political questions but on labour matters.

Mr. William O’Brien (Dublin Trades and Labour Council) said, every resolution sent for-ward
from that Congress had been treated with contempt by the Irish and the Labour Parties. He had forwarded the resolution passed when Mr Daly was arrested [in Wexford dispute] to the Labour Party, and they had never received even a post-card in acknowledgment. He thought it was time they resented such treatment (applause). Mr Murphy was the only speaker amongst the opponents of the resolution who had spoken with intelligence against it. He had
advocated the sending of the question to the Parliamentary Committee, but last year when that was proposed Mr Murphy had opposed it (applause). He (Mr O’Brien) was glad to see that he had come so far on the road, but he feared that if the resolution was the same as last year, Mr Murphy would vote against it all the same (laughter and applause).

Mr Flanagan (Belfast) said the Nationalist Party has been spoken of as a Labour Party in the absence of a Labour Party in Ireland, but it was quite possible for a member of the National-ist
Party to be a sweating employer, and to be opposed to the principles of Trades Unionism generally. Now was the moment to form a separate Labour group. They expected to have a separate form of Government very soon in Ireland, and it was for them to take advantage of the opportunity afforded them to do something towards organising Labour forces.

If Labour representation was ignored it would get a very poor show in the Irish Parliament
when it came into being. It was an undoubted fact that the Nationalist Party—the heads of the Liberal and Nationalist Parties—were capitalistic in their views, and it was quite possi-ble
that Mr John Redmond and his Party might be more reactionary than the present Ulster Tory Party. Some arrangement must be come to, to have Labour directly represented.

Mr Connolly in replying, said that the tone of the debate all through was something which made him feel proud of his countrymen (hear, hear), and at the same time he congratulated his English and Scottish brethren on the manner in which they had put their views (hear, hear). He must, however, ask those speakers who seemed to fear that the passing of the reso-lution would create dissension, because of the differences of opinion; Were there no differ-ences of opinion amongst workers in Great Britain? (Applause). Of course there were, as there were in Germany, in France, the United States, and everywhere else (hear, hear). These differences of expressed opinion were the very life-blood of discussion (hear, hear). He be-lieved if organization of any kind were to get even a chance of expression, it was vitally necessary to pass the resolution (applause).

The President, in putting the motion, expressed satisfaction at the high level to which the debate had reached. On being put to the vote, 49 voted for, and 18 against, the resolution, which was declared carried amidst applause.

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