Issue 35 of Saothar, the journal of the Irish Labour History Society, is available now via your local city / university library.
1. Conor McCabe 'The Irish Labour Party and the 1920 local elections'
An excellent article from Conor here. The article's argument is essentially that the Labour Party's 1920 election campaign was not that of a paper organisation but a well organised, well fought campaign fought on a clear programme across the whole of the island. The article goes into some depth on the relationship between Sinn Féin and Labour candidates, the nature of the party programme which contained a mix of revolutionary rhetoric and reformist demands, but was undoubtedly socialist, and some particularly interesting information on Labour candidates in Ulster. The results of the election saw Labour candidates secure 394 seats, ahead of every party except Sinn Féin who secured 550. Conor has written on the Labour Party in this period before over on Dublin Opinion. Of the Labour Party's performance, Conor writes 'it happened, and it needs to be acknowledged, before it can be analysed and understood.' This article should hopefully lead to a reconsideration of some of the dominant assumptions surrounding the Labour Party in the 1920s.
2. John Hogan 'Payback: The Dublin bricklayer's strike, 1920-21'
An interesting account of a lengthy bricklayer's strike that lasted from late 1920 until June of the following year. The article contains some interesting background information on the two unions involved, particulalrly the Ancient Guild of Incorporated Brick and Stonelayers Trade Union (AGIBSLTU), which claimed to be one of the oldest unions in Ireland and played an active role during the War of Independence. The article is particularly interesting in demonstrating how powerful and militant the Labour movement had become between the start of the century and the height of the Anglo-Irish war. In 1905 the AGIBSLTU had suffered a major defeat during a lockout with the employers, but by 1920 the union was capable of launching a militant, well organised strike that resulted in a resounding victory. According to Hogan the AGIBSLTU 'never displayed the slightest signs of weakness' and its rank and file showed unflinching determination throughout the lengthy struggle. There is also some interesting info here on the relationship between the Dublin trade union movement and the national struggle which was then at its height.
3. David Convery 'Irish participation in medical aid to Republican Spain, 1936-39'
A fascinating article by David Convery on Irish involvement in medical aid to Spain. A quick glance through the extensive endnotes makes one appreciate just how difficult Dave's task is, tracking down relatively unknown individuals often just mentioned offhand in memoirs and letters. There is some great biographical information here on a number of Irish individuals who partipated in the defence of the Spanish republic as nurses, ambulance drivers etc., whose work was just as vital to the war effort as those who fought on the front lines. You can follow Dave's research here or read his interesting article on Cork volunteers in the Spanish Civil War here. A more polished version of that article is also available in the journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society.
4. Liam Cullinane 'A happy blend?' Irish republicanism, political violence and social agitation, 1962-69'
My first published scholarly article. For that reason I can't really comment on its quality. It basically argues against the idea that the IRA by 1969 was moribund or had given up on the idea of the armed struggle, contains more information on social agitation carried out by the republican movement in this period and places the tactics of the IRA within an international context. It also argues against Goulding's leadership as being largely a failure and demonstrates how the IRA grew under his leadership (albeit slowly) and greatly increased its public profile.
Essay: Michael Pierse 'The Shadow of Seán: O'Casey, commitment and writing Dublin's working class'
A great Gramscian analysis of Seán O'Casey and other Dublin working-class writers. Pierse basically argues that O'Casey and other writers like Roddy Doyle and Brendan Behan were responding to an Irish Hegemonic cultural discourse focused on a mythical classless rural Ireland that excluded and marginalised the working-class. As such their writing can be described as counter-hegomonic in terms of consciously writing as part of an urban counter-culture. The essay also looks at O'Casey in relation to gender, class, institutional criticism and religion and, unlike other commmentary on O'Casey, doesn't just focus on the Dublin trilogy. This essay for me was the highlight of the issue and I will be keeping a close eye out for a cheap copy of Pierse's book which is currently selling for 50 pounds sterling on Amazon.
There are also obituaries of John B. Smethurst, Justin Keating and Pat Murphy, a biographical note on James Pringle and reviews of:
Francis Devine, Fintan Lane and Niamh Purséil (eds) Essays in Irish Labour History: A Feitschrift for Elizabeth and John W. Boyle
Francis Devine Organising the Union: A Centenary of SIPTU, 1909-2009
John Cunningham, Unlikely Radicals: Irish Post-Primary Teachers and the ASTI, 1909-2009
Fergus Campbell, The Irish Establishment, 1879-1914
Conor Reidy, Ireland's Moral Hospital: The Irish Borstal System 1906-1956
Fintan Lane and Andrew G. Newby (eds) Michael Davitt: New Perspectives
Martin Maguire, Scientific Service: A History of the Union of Professional and Technical Civil Servants, 1920-1990
Fintan Lane (ed.), Politics, Society and the Middle-Class in Modern Ireland
Fearghal McGarry, The Rising - Ireland: Easter 1916
Saothar: Back Issues
It's also good to see that the ILHS has a new website under construction, though the old one was not without it's late 90s charm. It goes without saying that if you have an interest in social history then you should join the ILHS by filling out an application.