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James Larkin

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James Larkin (1876-1947), otherwise known as 'Big Jim' to the people of Dublin and further afield, was a socialist leader of the Dublin based Union, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, better known by its acronym, the ITGWU. A key organiser of the 1913 Lockout, Larkin emigrated to America following its ultimate failure, but his actions ensured that the working classes were able to Unionise, as the chaos and damage caused to the city during the General Strike forced the Employers to grant more favourable concessions to workers in the years that followed.

Larkin was born of Irish parentage in Liverpool, England but his family later moved to County Down, where they lived in considerable poverty. Raised without a formal education, he, like many others of his generation found solace for his poverty in the thoughts and ideas presented in Marxist socialism, although he later advocated Syndacilism.

Trade Unionist activist

Jim became an organiser of first the Liverpool branch of the National Union of Dock Labourers and then an organiser of the Belfast one from 1907-1909. [1] The Belfast Union was badly organised and distracted by sectarianism between the Protestant workers and the Catholic ones. Larkin reorganised the Union and made it more effective; his oratory skills being key to reaching consensus with the working classes of Belfast. [2] The Union collapsed once challenged by the Belfast Employers Union, and thus Larkin went to Dublin where he set up the National Union of Dock Labourers there. When suspended from the Union he set up for his militant approach, he formed the Irish Transport and General Workers Union and then in May 1911 published the socialist newpaper, The Irish worker which was later repressed for its anti-war views. [3]

James Larkin in the 1913 Lockout

See here for the full article on the 1913 Lockout

James Larkin was a passionate public speaker and a righteous socialist who disdained the condition of the working class in Dublin. Under his leadership, the ITGWU played a huge role in the 1913 Lockout between the Dublin Employers Union under William Martin Murphy and the Unions. After its subsequent failure he emigrated to America to raise funds to rebuild the Union.


  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid