There are few figures in the history of Ireland who can claim to be more controversial and divisive than “Big” Jim Larkin who has been celebrated for his impressive life in literature, on film, and through poetry.
The Republican views of James Larkin fit well with the early 20th-century period in which he arrived in Ireland from his English home city of Liverpool after falling out with the leaders of the National Dock Laborers Union he was representing in Liverpool as a full-time organizer.
Larkin was initially sent to Ireland to divide his time between Belfast and Dublin to unionize the workforce in the docks for the NDLU but became disenchanted with the lack of assistance he received from his English employers. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and Jim Larkin | Biography
The response of Larkin was swift and saw him move to Dublin and form his own union, the Irish Transport and General Workers Union which would eventually lay the framework for the creation of the Irish Labour Party in 1912 by Larkin and his friend and colleague, James Connelly.
The death of Connelly during the Easter Rising of 1916 would hit Larkin hard and see him name a trade union hall after his fallen friend in the U.S.
Jim Larkin had departed Ireland for the U.S. in 1914 and played no role in the specifics of the Easter Rising of 1916 but was responsible for much of the propaganda surrounding the attempt to overthrow British rule in Ireland.
The death of Connelly at the hands of a British firing squad sees him remembered as a leading light of the push for independence from England but Larkin’s role was often less well remembers in the first half of the 20th-century.
Since his death in 1947, Larkin’s role in Irish politics and the worker’s rights movement has been reevaluated and he has become the culturally important figure he always wished to be.
In his native Liverpool, James Larkin Way is a prominent thoroughfare and his statue now stands on Dublin’s O’Connell Street bearing the inscription, “The great appear great because we are on our knees, let us rise.”
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