Extracts from the Annual Reports

Extracts from Irish Labour Party and Trades Union Congress on August 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th 1921 in the Mansion House, Dublin

On Belfast Expelled Workers

From the Executive Report: Immediately after the Cork Congress [the previous Annual Conference, 1920] two members of the Executive visited Belfast to interview the Committee who were responsible for the collection of funds and conducting the agitation on behalf of the workers expelled from the ship yards and other establishments because of their political and religious opinions. A grant was made of £50 to assist in furthering the collection of funds and propaganda in Great Britain. We have endeavoured to assist in any way practicable to secure the reinstatement of these expelled workers, but regret that virulent intolerance still prevails (as the newspaper reports give evidence) and that large numbers of men and women who were driven from their employment a year ago have been compelled to subsist upon the charity of the public for these twelve long months. We confess we can see no light ahead, and no sign of an improvement. The general depression in trade which is especially marked in Belfast, can no doubt be attributed in some measure to the Trade Boycott following the pogrom.

A notable event in connection with Belfast was the action of the Executive Council of the Amalgamated Carpenters and Joiners (now the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers) in respect to the expulsion of their members from the ship yards on account of their political and religious opinions. The Executive Council in Manchester demanded that the ship building and other firms from whose employment men had been driven, should allow the men to return to work and be given protection as had been done on a previous occasion. Failing to obtain any satisfaction from the firms concerned the Union called upon its members to cease work. About 2,000 of them refused to obey the instructions of their Union. The Executive, to their credit, therefore expelled the recalcitrant members from the Society.

Had this course been followed by other Union Executives the story of the Belfast ship yards for the past year would have been very different. Had there been no division amongst the workers, Belfast would not have borne the discredit of being the only ship-building centre where the woodworkers have accepted a 12s 6d per week reduction in wages, thereby giving encouragement to the employers for the general attack on shipyard wage rates. In this fact we may find the inner reason why religious and political animosities are fomented in that city.

Click here to launch page 4 the 1921 Annual Report (PDF)

On the Munitions Strike

At the time of the last Congress the strike of the railwaymen against carrying munitions of war had been in progress for nearly three months. It continued for nearly four months longer.
The policy that had the railwaymen against carrying munitions of war had been in progress for nearly three months. It continued for nearly four months longer. The policy that had been carried through from the beginning, of accepting individual dismissals, was continued, with the result that notwithstanding the efforts of the military to force the issue the railways of the country were never compelled to close down.

The plan adopted by the military geniuses then in residence in Dublin Castle was to force the issue by such means as these:

Armed police, or soldiers with fixed bayonets, would be sent to a certain station to board every train leaving that station, no matter in which direction it was going; or, as became a fixed practice later on, on each of the main lines of railway, except the Great Northern, to send a company of military to meet a certain train each day. They would board the train as passengers (although sometimes these were goods trains and not legally allowed to carry passengers) and on the refusal of the guard or driver to proceed with the train, the passengers would leave and the train would continue its journey. At the end of the journey the guard or driver, or both, would be suspended or dismissed. The object of this procedure was, of course, to rapidly wear down the number of the drivers, and, as was ultimately admitted, it was the intention of the British authorities to force the railways to close. This course of events was continued until towards the end of October-November, when the Midland Great Western system and the Great Southern both began to feel that they would not be able to continue much longer. A number of the smaller services were suspended. Certain agitations began to be voiced in the newspapers respecting the dangers to the industries of the country if the railways were allowed to be closed, and hinting that the railwaymen should reconsider their position.

This agitation was mainly .the work of the small trader and cattle jobber who were afraid of the loss of their export trade. Although undoubtedly their pleas seem to have influenced a
number of railwaymen, it was the imminence of the close-down of the Midland Great Western which brought the matter to a crisis and which led to the calling of the special All-Ireland conference held in the Mansion House, Dublin, on November 16th. We are embodying in this Report a somewhat lengthy record of the proceedings which took place at the Mansion House and as that record contains full information respecting the situation up to the date of the conference, it is not necessary to go into further detail here…

Prior to the holding of the National Labour Conference, the Lord Mayor of Dublin called together representatives from the Borough Councils and County Councils throughout the country to a meeting in the City Hall, Dublin, to consider the national food supply, in view of the approaching railway crisis. This conference met upon November 12th, at which representatives of the National Executive were present. This conference was attended by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, the Lord Mayor of Cork, the Mayor of Limerick, Alderman Cosgrove, TD, Alderman MacDonagh, TD, and about fifty other representatives of local governing bodies. The Lord Mayor of Cork. Alderman Donal O’Callaghan, speaking from the Chair, suggested the appointment of an all-Ireland Committee such as that which controlled the
anti-conscription movement, and which could be looked to for general instructions…

The meeting in the Mansion House followed a few days later, and …freely discussed from all points of view, the National Executive making it clear that in their opinion the men should persist firmly in their refusal to carry munitions of war, and that it would be the duty of the whole Labour Movement to rally as a united force behind the railwaymen and show themselves ready to bear all sacrifices which continued resistance would involve. It was also
their opinion that all the valuable elements in the country would be compelled by the course of events to rally to the support of the railwaymen and to share fully the sacrifices. The outcome of the conference was the following resolution, which was passed with only two dissentients: This all-Ireland conference of Labour delegates, representing al’ sections and trades of the Trish working class, endorses the action of the National Executive in calling us
tog-ether in the crisis arising- from the threat to close down the railways.

We recognise that the action of the railway and dock workers in refusing, on their own initiative and without outside pressure, to handle weapons of war or convey armed men on the railways, was a decision inspired by patriotic and unselfish motives, and that the country has freely and generously supplied the funds necessary to sustain the men in their struggle.

We also fully realise the sacrifice that will be entailed by the continuance of the resistance against “The Tyranny” should the railwaymen adhere to their decision, and solemnly call upon our fellow citizens of all classes to throw all their resources of wealth and services into the struggle.

We authorise the National Executive to appoint representatives upon the Lord Mayor’s Committee to act with other representative citizens on that Committee to organise the defence and preservation of the national life now being menaced by the withdrawal of transport facilities by order of the British Military Authorities.

Click here to launch page 7 the 1920 Annual Report (PDF)