Prison Could Not Silence The Remarkable Jim Larkin

Posted on July 4, 2018 By

In November of 1913 Irish authorities tossed union organizer Jim Larkin into Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison on the charge of making “seditious utterances.” But a public outcry ensued. Thousands of people took to the streets, not only in Ireland, but in locations across England.

Nervous authorities decided to free Larkin. The first thing Larkin did after walking out of his cell was march down to Liberty Hall and make an impassioned, rabble-rousing speech. There was plenty more “seditious utterances” by Larkin, much to the frustration of those would see him muzzled.

At the time of Jim Larkin’s arrest and release, the 1913 Dublin Lockout was still in effect. This was a massive strike by 20,000 workers against some 300 employers. The Dublin Lockout was an agonizing, often violent struggle that pitted the urban working poor against the wealthy elite. Larkin was the primary mastermind of this epic revolt by the forces of labor.

The Dublin Lockout was ultimately crushed by authorities. Also, after six months of no work or pay, many Irish men simply gave in and returned to their jobs to stave off starvation and further economic ruin. Read more: James Larkin | Biography and James Larkin – Wikipedia

Jim Larkin himself found it necessary to flee Ireland for a time. He sailed for America in early 1914. He was likely to end up incarcerated again if he hadn’t. Ironically, Larkin’s stint on American soil would also result in a prison sentence for doing much of the same kind of things he did in Ireland — agitating for labor reforms and promoting a socialist agenda.

Larkin was locked up in New York’s notorious Sing Sing from 1919 to 1923. He was eventually pardoned by New York governor Al Smith and deported back to Ireland.

Keeping Jim Larkin in prison came with certain consequences and problems for authorities. The U.S. government decided to let him return to Ireland where he could be that government’s problem, not America’s.

Today Jim Larkin stands as one of Ireland’s most respected folk heroes. His efforts on behalf of the urban poor had lasting, positive effects for the plight of the downtrodden.