A walk through the history of radical Dublin


There are the notes about six locations in central Dublin of historical importance to the left.  You would walk the route between them in about 30 minutes.



Four IWW members were among the 70 or so rebel dead of the 1916 Dublin rising and its aftermath. Of the four the best known is James Connolly - one of the main organisers of the rising. He had been an IWW organiser in New York. Obviously his IWW connection is pretty well known on the far left.

Donal Nevin, in his book James Connolly 'A Full life', refers to "a British conscientious objector (possibly called Allen) who wore the button of the revolutionary syndicalist union, the Industrial Workers of the World. He was wounded during the evacuation of the GPO and died on Saturday"

The second may be a Londoner named Neale, who was shot and died later in Easter Week, and the third was a Greek sailor who apparently jumped ship in Liverpool to join the rebellion and was killed in the final charge on Moore Street.

One of the three was thought to be Jewish and so was not buried in Glasnevin but in a Jewish cemetery. There is a story of a family who opening their family plot in the 1930's only to discover a body wearing a Citizen Army belt and an IWW button already in the grave.


In July 1984, eleven young workers at Dunnes Stores on Henry Street went on strike following the suspension of a 21-year-old cashier, Mary Manning. At their union’s conference a motion calling for a boycott of South African goods had been passed. These workers took their trade unionism seriously; Mary was suspended when she politely refused to handle a South African grapefruit at her checkout. Selflessly, these workers remained on strike for two years and nine months.

Their contribution to the fight against Apartheid is internationally recognised and remembered in the Ewan MacColl song, “Ten young women and one young man”.

Finally, the government was pushed to resolve the strike by banning imports of SA fruit & veg.


At the time of the 1913 lockout, Cleary’s department store was the Imperial Hotel. A rally in support of the unions had been banned, but large numbers gathered anyway. An elderly clergyman appeared at his hotel window overlooking the crowd. Off came his hat, off came a false beard, it as Jim Larkin.

The police attacked, causing the deaths of two workers. Hundreds more were injured. It is still known in the Irish Labour movement as "Bloody Sunday". James Nolan, a young union member, was beaten so badly that his skull was smashed in. John Byrne also lost his life that day.

A young striker Alice Brady was marking her way home with her food parcel from the union office when an armed scab shot her dead,

Michael Byrne, secretary of the ITGWU in Dun Laoghaire was tortured in a police cell and died shortly after release. In response, Larkin, Connolly and an ex-British Army Captain called Jack White formed a uniformed worker's militia - the Irish Citizen Army - to protect workers' demonstrations.

Leaving for the USA in 1914 to raise funds for the union, Larkin became involved in the activities of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). In November 1915 he was one of the chosen speakers at the funeral of IWW organizer and songwriter Joe Hill.

On the other side of the world, in Australia, the IWW were prominent opponents of World War 1. The Sydney Twelve were members arrested in September 1916, and charged with treason under an archaic law known as the Treason Felony Act (1848), arson, sedition and forgery. One of them was Big Jim’s own brother, Peter, who was finally released four years later by the newly elected Labour government


Back in the early 1900s this was the Rotunda Concert Hall and Pillar Room.

On Wednesday January 18, 1922, two hundred radicals seized the building, hoisted a red flag and declared a ‘soviet’.

The ‘soviet’, which lasted only three days, ended when the IRA were used to clear the building and make it safe for its private owners

While many of us will have read Liam O’Flaherty’s ‘The Informer’ when at school, few will have been told that he was the leader of this affair.

Sean McAteer, a docker and member of the Irish Citizen Army was another leading figure. He later emigrated to America and became an activist with the IWW.

This might seem a bit comic opera but we need to remember that it coincided with the many factory occupations in the period immediately after Irish independence. These generally started as strikes but quickly moved to occupations and the resumption of production under workers’ control. Inspired by news the Russian Revolution, they flew the red flag.

Self-declared 'Soviet' occupations occurred at Cork Harbour, North Cork railways, the quarry and the fishing fleet at Castleconnell, the gasworks and a coachbuilders in Tipperary, a clothing factory in Dublin's York Street, sawmills in Ballinacourty and Killarney, the Drogheda Iron foundry, Waterford Gas, mines at Arigna and Ballinderry, two flour mills in Cork, Sir John Kean's farm in Cappoquin, the Monaghan asylum. Undoubtedly there were others.


It was here that Tom Clarke, one of the seven signatories of the 1916 proclamation, had his tobacconist’s shop. Clarke is seen as the link between the old Fenians and the new nationalists around Pearse.

It is usually thought that the socialism in Ireland can be dated from Connolly’s time. In fact our history goes back a little further.

What isn’t as well known is the connection between sections of the Fenians and the international socialist movement. Joseph McDonnell, an ex-Fenian represented Ireland on the General Council of the International Working Men’s Association in London.

In 1872, branches of the International were established in Dublin, Cork, Belfast and Cootehill, Co Cavan.

Immense opposition came from the Catholic Church and the newspapers, there was a propaganda offensive that claimed socialists would murder priests and suppress religion.

Meetings were broken up by mobs organised by the Catholic Men’s Sodalities. Sackings and difficulties in hiring venues forced the closure of these early socialist bodies. Welcoming their, Canon Maguire, a Cork cleric, noted with satisfaction that: “those wretched people had been expelled from Belfast”.

The socialist movement remained on the periphery of Irish politics until 1885. In this year, the Dublin Democratic Association came into existence. This organisation was essentially an offshoot of the much larger British group known as the Democratic Federation.

In some cases hundreds attended its Saturday meetings at the Rotunda (today it is the Gate Theater) in Dublin.

The Socialist League followed quickly on the heels of the Dublin Democratic Association. Once again, the Dublin branch arose out of a larger network established in Britain in December 1884, whose members included William Morris.

Indeed, it was with the arrival of an English anarchist, Michael Gabriel who lived in North Strand, that the Dublin Socialist League began to make ground. It differed from previous Irish socialist organs in its radicalism. The defence and promotion of workers’ rights and issues took precedence above everything else.

They contended that Home Rule would entail: “the rule of the farmer, the publican, the clergymen and the politicians.” Can’t argue with that!

A Sunday stroll through our radical past
Some of the stops on the 3rd ADublin anarchist bookfair walking tour in 2008 and a few notes about them

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