James Larkin Statue

O'Connell Street , Dublin 1

James (Big Jim) Larkin (21 January 1876 - 30 January 1947), was an Irish trade union leader and socialist activist, born to Irish parents in Liverpool, England. He and his family later moved to a small cottage in Burren, southern County Down. Growing up in poverty, he received little formal education and began working in a variety of jobs while still a child. He became a full-time trade union organiser in 1905.
Larkin moved to Belfast in 1907 and founded the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, the Irish Labour Party, and later the Workers' Union of Ireland. Perhaps best known for his role in the 1913 Dublin Lockout, "Big Jim" continues to occupy a significant place in Dublin's collective memory.
In 1941 a new trade union bill was published by the Government. Inspired by an internal trade union restructuring proposal by William O'Brien, it was viewed as a threat by the smaller general unions and the Irish branches of British unions (known as the 'amalgamated unions'). Larkin and the WUI played a leading role in the unsuccessful campaign against the bill. After its passage into law he and his supporters successfully applied for admission to the Labour Party, where they were now regarded with more sympathy by many members. O'Brien in response disaffiliated the ITGWU from the party, forming the rival National Labour Party and denouncing what he claimed was communist influence in Labour. Larkin later served as a Labour Party deputy in Dáil Éireann (1943-44).
James Larkin died in his sleep on 30 January 1947. His funeral mass was celebrated by the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid, and thousands lined the streets of the city as the hearse passed through on the way to Glasnevin Cemetery.


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