When the ITGWU was established there were under ten percent of all Irish workers in the union and almost of the unions were British based.
The activists in Dublin fought for a movement based in Ireland and as an official at NUDL Jim Larkin believed labor should be international. He saw the connection between the labor movement and republicanism and wanted all workers to have One Big Union.
As the leader of the ITGWU Jim Larkin became a victim of insecurity and worried a lot about money. Despite his frugal living his dreams and schemes required capital. He wanted the ITGWU headquarters to become a cultural powerhouse instead of resorting to expensive strikes.
In 1911 Jim Larkin launched the Irish Worker. The paper was successful and showed he had editorial abilities. When the Great Labor Unrest materialized several weeks later the ITGWU was drawn into the conflict. Jim Larkin met the challenge and soon the union members grew from 5,000 to 15,000 members.
Due to the strategies of the ITGWU the Irish Trades Union Congress established the labor party in 1912. This was the height of Jim Larkin’s power and popularity.
This ended during the Lockout of 1913. This war pitted 20,000 workers against 404 employers, established Jim Larkin’s reputation as a labor champion, and almost destroyed his health.
Jim Larkin left for the United States in 1914 to pursue a career as a public speaker. In 1923, he stated he was there for a liaison with Clan na Gael but was unable to earn a living as a socialist speaker.
The Germans bankrolled him from 1915 until 1917 to disrupt the United States munitions industry until he refused to participate in sabotage operations causing a break with the Germans. He went to New York and joined the Socialist Party but was arrested and convicted of criminal anarchy in 1919.
Jim Larkin became well known in 1907 during the meeting in Belfast’s Queen’s Square and the dock strike. He was deported to England in 1923 but eventually made his way back to Dublin. Jim Larkin suffered expulsion from the ITGWU in 1924.
By the 1930’s Jim Larkin had removed himself from the spotlight and was concentrating on the WUI which was failing.
He had mellowed by the 1940’s and became gentler and kinder as he placed his ambitions in the past. His opposition of the Trade Union Act in 1941 helped in the restoration of his name and North-East Dublin elected him Labor TD.
He stayed active until the end of his life when he fell through the floor at the WUI’s Thomas Ashe Hall while supervising repair work. On January 30th of 1947 Jim Larkin died at the Meath Hospital.
His friend Archbishop John Charles McQuaid quickly came to his deathbed. This was when his conversion and final reconciliation with the church occurred.
The Larkin legend ended after the Lockout reached its 50th anniversary. His life has been celebrated in art and literature despite the cruelty he inflicted on labor from 1907 until 1913. He is best remembered as a magnificent leader.
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