Extracts from the Annual Reports

Extracts from ITUC Conference on May 12th, 13th and 14th, 1913 in the City Hall, Cork

Interview with John Redmond on Government of Ireland Bill

The interview took place in the Gresham Hotel [Dublin] and at Mr Redmond’s request was conducted in the absence of the Press. Mr Redmond was accompanied by Mr John Dillon, MP, and Mr Joseph Devlin, MP. The members of the Committee present were Miss Mary Galway, Messrs James Larkin, Chairman; Wm O’Brien, Vice Chairman; Thomas McConnell, M O’Lehane, R P O’Carroll, TC and P T Daly.

THE CHAIRMAN (MR. LARKIN) dealt with the general demand of the Trade Union Movement in Ireland that Medical Benefits under the National Health Insurance Act should be extended to Ireland. He instanced the anomalous position in which members of approved societies whose headquarters were in Great Britain were placed as compared with their com-rades across the Channel. He said that the Insurance Act without Medical Benefits was prac-tically of no use to them in Ireland. Organised labour had demanded the measure year after year, and now it would seem as if the Trade Unions were to be pushed to the wall by other organisations that had done nothing to secure the bringing of State Insurance into the realms of practical politics.

He dwelt on the urgent necessity for amending the Schedules of the Government of Ireland Bill, pointing out the manner in which the constituencies were gerrymandered. Newry, for instance, was split in two, one portion being relegated to a rural constituency in one county and the other to a rural constituency in another county. And in other constituencies electing two members; by a process of grouping of votes, the farming class would dominate any Par-liament that would be called into existence. The Irish Trades Congress had passed a resolu-tion,
copy of which had been forwarded, demanding a reversion to the principle in existence prior to the re-distribution of seats whereby Borough representation was secured.

Mr Larkin also impressed upon Mr. Redmond the claim of the Trade Unionists of Ireland to secure adult suffrage, the payment of members in the native Parliament, and that in all elec-tions the Returning Officers’ fees should be paid by the State. In reference to the position in
Belfast, where men and women were, through political and sectarian activities, prevented from following their employment, it was useless to attempt to minimise the gravity of the situation. During the times of strike or lock-out the Government held it was their duty to provide protection for the scab or blackleg who was utilised by the employer to break down the Trade Union Combinations on the grounds that they were legally liable to provide pro-tection for men and women to do that which it was alleged they had a legal right to do. In other words, to protect men at their work. If that were so, surely the same legal necessity presented
itself to stop men and women being prevented from following their usual avocations because they refused to think on political or economic questions as they were directed by the em-ployers or others. It was scandalous that the Government refused to protect men who were not blacklegs when they were ruthlessly beaten and driven from their work as the result of incitement by men who had been directly and indirectly in the Government in the past.

He also referred to the question of manning of ships and the necessity for providing life-saving apparatus in ships to protect life at sea, and instanced what had occurred in connec-tion with the “Titanic” disaster.

Miss MARY GALWAY dealt with the question of the Minority Report of the Truck Com-mittee. She said that the question of the abolition of fines was of paramount importance for the women workers of this country as well as to shop workers generally. She quoted several instances of cases that had come to her knowledge where workers had been compelled to pay for the material alleged to have been injured, and the goods were sold at high prices
although the worker was fined and not paid for their production. She also impressed upon Mr Redmond the necessity for further amendments of the Factory Acts, particularly to give Fac-tory Inspectors the power to compel employers to provide fencing and other protective
measures of the latest and most improved character in their factories.

She was further of the opinion that more female Factory Inspectors should be appointed; here were many reasons which would suggest themselves to the Honourable Gentleman. She also dealt with the necessity for amending the Truck Acts, and pointed out the hardship un-der which young girls working in Belfast laboured under the National Health Insurance Act. In
connection with the question of Medical Referees, the Trades Congress had registered their objection to the system of medical men employed in public institutions giving reports with-out the knowledge or consent of the injured party—a system which was very prejudicial to the interests of the injured worker and was certainly in opposition to the spirit if not to the letter of the Act.

MR WILLIAM O’BRIEN dealt with the question of Contracts in the Tailoring Trade. He said they were of opinion that all clothing required for Government Departments, and the Public Service generally, should be made in Ireland by Trade Union Labour. He said that several attempts, which in some instances he regretted to say were successful, had been made to secure that this work should be executed in England, and instanced the action of the Treasury in connection with the uniforms of the porters and messengers in the Land Com-mission, as well as of the War Office some years ago in reference to military outfits.

He also dealt with the question of the Feeding of Necessitous School Children, and said it was a crying shame that the Act did not apply to Ireland. Every man in the Labour Move-ment was in favour of progression in education; they felt that every child should be com-pelled to attend school, but how could they agree to the compulsory attendance of a child who was hungry, whose parents were unable to provide it with food, and whom the State by its action debarred from getting food, whilst according the privilege they denied to the Irish child to the children of Great Britain?

He pressed upon Mr Redmond the urgency of this question, and hoped that steps would be taken to have this grave injustice remedied and the Act extended to Ireland. Mr O’Brien also referred to the question of adult suffrage and the payment by the State of Returning Officers’ fees, and of members of the Legislature in any Irish Assembly which might be set up. He also
referred to the question of Compulsory Vaccination in Ireland and demanded that the Con-science Clause in operation in Great Britain should be extended to Ireland.

Mr M J O’Lehane dealt with the question of the Shops Act. He said the Act was not satisfac-tory. And whilst expressing satisfaction at the establishment by legal enactment of a weekly
half-holiday, he felt, nevertheless, grave dissatisfaction that no provision had been made for the prohibition of Sunday Trading or even a limitation of hours during which trading could be carried on on Sunday. Several of the trades felt the limitation of powers under the Act very much, notably, the hairdressers, whose representatives had raised this question time and again with the Chief Secretary of Ireland and with the Honourable Gentleman the Chairman of the Irish Party. There were some ludicrous anomalies under the Act, several districts and towns outside the scheduled Urban and Borough areas being excluded. Accordingly the Act is made applicable to towns with a population considerably under 2,000 and is not applica-ble to places with a population over 4,000.

He also had to complain of the great difficulty, and in some instances, expense, they had to undergo in order to get the Act put into operation at all, and that was a difficulty which he felt the Honourable Gentleman could give them very considerable help in overcoming. In reference to the Minority Report referred to by Miss Galway, he thought that effect should be given to it at once, more especially as in the distributive trades in which the “Living-in-System “, was in operation, many things are carried on which are opposed to the spirit, and he might say to the letter, of the Truck Acts.

With reference to the National Health Insurance Act he would impress the great necessity there undoubtedly was for amendment in regard to the matters referred to by the previous speakers. But as well as these they had been promised autonomy for Ireland,
and that promise was not carried out although the promise was made by the Right Honoura-ble, The Chancellor of the Exchequer.

He pointed out that numerous complaints had been received in reference to violations of the Fair Wage Conditions in the carrying out of Public Contracts in Ireland, and particularly did this refer to Government Departments such as the War Office and to contracts for coach building and carting. He impressed upon Mr Redmond the urgent necessity of remedying these grievances.

Councillor R P O’Carroll desired to emphasise the remarks made by Mr Larkin in reference to the disturbances in Belfast. Some of these outrages were committed on the grounds of the
Harbour Commissioners. The authorities alleged that the Harbour Commissioners’ ground was private property upon which the police could not enter. But this was contradicted by the fact that Mr Larkin himself was arrested there by the RIC in 1907. And surely what could be done with the leader of a big strike could be done with the men who were persecuting a number of respectable, hard-working Belfast workmen ?

In reference to the question of Contracts raised by previous speakers, he thought there was no
trades more sinned against than the building trades. In the War Office they were continually complaining about the employment of handymen to do building work and painting work, whilst they had very grave doubts as to whether the Fair Wages Resolution was observed in any contract where Trade Union labour was not employed. The only way that this could be met was by confining all such contracts to Trade Unionists.

His experience in connection with County Councils and such like bodies was that nearly all their work in the building trades was done by non-unionists, and in several instances District Councils and Poor Law Guardians had given the erection of houses by contract to men who were not builders, who did not employ tradesmen, and who did not pay the
standard wage for the execution of the work. He trusted Mr Redmond and the members of his Party would do their utmost to remedy this state of affairs and to secure that tradesmen’s work would be confined to tradesmen each in his own grade.

He hoped the Party would give their support to the Right-to-Work Bill, the Minimum Wage Bill, and the other measures to alleviate the conditions of the workers which were to be in-troduced by the Labour Party in the House of Commons. He hoped they would also secure the re-introduction and passing into law of the Steam Engines (Persons in Charge) Bill, and that they would also support the various measures outlined by the previous speakers. He wished
to join in the protest which had been made in reference to the exclusion of the workers in the towns which would undoubtedly ensue if the Government of Ireland Bill were allowed to pass in its present form.

Mr P T Daly said he had to refer to the Railway Bill, the necessary amendments to which were outlined in the resolutions of Trades Congress forwarded to the Honourable Gentleman in June. He hoped due attention will be given to the demands of the Railway Staffs, both manual and clerical. The Railway Servants’ work was of an arduous character, and he hoped the Party would support any motion that would be made to fix a living wage as a minimum for this class of work.

The Report of the Viceregal Commission was well worthy of their attention and of their support. Whilst they objected to the passing of the Railway Bill in its present form, he hoped that the Party would not forget the action of the Irish Railway Companies in regard to the Conciliation Scheme of 1907 and the House of Commons Resolution of 1911. The Trade Unionists of Ireland were opposed to the measure, it was retrogressive and was opposed to the recommendations of the Commission of 1907. He was directed to point-out the absence of any protective clauses for the rights of the grades of Railwaymen, the proposed removing of the direct sanction of Parliament in matters affecting acquisition of land, working agree-ments, alleged improvements, and the transferring of the onus of proof from the Railway Companies to the traders.

In fact, it was a Bill to give further powers to the Railway Companies, which in Ireland at any rate were amongst the greatest, if not the greatest, enemies to the progress of the coun-try. He hoped that the Party when supporting the Nationalisation of Railways would remem-ber to safeguard the interests of the clerical and operative staffs. He contended that they would be useful members of any Irish Railway Authority that might be set up, and he hoped that they would take steps to protect the interests of the workers, conserve those they had and gain for them the rights and privileges with accompanying emoluments which the im-portance of their positions undoubtedly entitled them to.

He hoped the Party would support Mr Wardle’s Railway Offices Bill and so secure to the Railway clerks a greater modicum of comfort at their work and a better means of preventing disease than they at present enjoyed. He was further instructed to refer to the introduction into Trades Disputes of the Military, and instanced cases where the law was strained in order to punish workers who were either locked-out or on strike.

He was also instructed to protest against the fixing of so low a minimum as sixpence per hour for adult males and three pence-farthing for fully qualified female operatives by the Board of Trade. In connection with Government work at Haulbowline, he regretted the local workers engaged in the Dockyard are not paid the standard rate. At any rate the men were not satisfied. In other Naval yards, he was informed, the wage fixed was a 22s minimum, 28s maximum for skilled, and 21s for unskilled. This was not paid at Haulbowline.

Mr Joseph Devlin said it was fashionable when anything went wrong to blame the Irish Party. The Party had done their best. He was as much in favour of the extension of Medical Benefits to the workers in towns as any of the deputation, but there was no demand from the country for Medical Benefits, and if there was they would have got them. In reference to the disturbances in Belfast, they were doing their very utmost.

MR J E REDMOND, MP, said he had listened to the various demands put forward by the deputation. He expressed sympathy with their claim in reference to the amendment of the Schedules of the Home Rule Bill and promised that the matter would engage the attention of the Party. With regard to the Medical Benefits under the Insurance Act, he did not think that there was a very general demand for them. If such a demand was made evident to him he would see that an Amending Mill was introduced in the next Session. With reference to the other matters he could assure the deputation of their sympathetic consideration by the Irish
Party. He might assure them that any measure introduced by the Labour Party had almost invariably received their support.

The deputation having briefly thanked Mr Redmond for his courteous hearing and promises of support then withdrew.

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