I’m very pleased to announce that Locked Out: A Century of Irish Working-Class Life is about to be released by Irish Academic Press. Edited by David Convery, a historian and friend of Come Here To Me, it is a collection of chapters looking at the lives of working class people in Ireland in the last hundred years. I have contributed a chapter to the book looking at the rather infamous ‘Animal Gangs’ of the 1930s, a product of inner-city Dublin who emerged from a newspaper strike in 1934 but whose name became synonymous with gang violence in the city for generations. Other chapters look at things like the beautiful game, the NSPCC, class and gender, and one chapter even has reference to Tallafornia in it. It’s the one I’m most eager to read. The full list of chapters and more information is here. The book aims to remain affordable (sadly so often not the case with academic titles) and should be in all good bookshops very soon, in fact as early as next week.
In 1913, a titanic battle gripped the city of Dublin that polarised Irish society. The Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, led by Jim Larkin, took on the might of one of the biggest Irish capitalists of the day, William Martin Murphy. What began as a strike over union recognition in Murphy’s Dublin United Tramway Company quickly escalated, as Murphy, backed by the state and the Dublin Employers’ Federation, declared all-out war on the trade union movement. Despite tremendous efforts, the workers went down to a bitter defeat. Historians and other commentators have tended to view the 1913 Lockout as a tragic, but unique case in Irish history. However, its uniqueness lies mainly in its scale. The working class continued to exist after 1913. It continued to develop its own organisations, its own cultural and leisure activities, its own forms of self-representation and identity. It also continued to engage in strike action and other forms of protest against the employers and ruling establishment. Yet the study of an independent working class has been neglected in favour of an all-embracing focus on nationalism in politics, culture and wider society. That class, rather than ethnicity, religion, or the idea of national identity could have a role to play in politics and cultural production is an alien one to mainstream Irish debate. The working class has been locked out of history.