James Connolly


Home Thrusts

(May 1899)

Workers’ Republic, May 1899.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.15.
Transcription by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Here we are again. [1]

And although the phrase – beloved of the children watching with gaping mouths the antics of a circus clown – may seem a trifle too suggestive for some of our sensitive readers, we venture to think it has in this instance an appositeness most peculiarly its own.

Here we are again; the cause of amusement to those whose conscience our pleasant satires leave untouched, and the cause of mental writhing to the herd of mummers on the stage of life who feel our shafts ripping open their disguises, or exposing their tricks to the ridicule of the world.

As it is the function of the jester to laugh others out of their follies by an assumption of folly on his own part, so it is the function of ‘Spailpín’ to reveal the shortcomings of the political hucksters, by assuming the role of a huckster himself.

A huckster? Yes! On this front page ‘Spailpín’ carries on the trade of buying and selling, and the veriest tyro in that art knows that the first requisite for driving a good bargain is to depreciate the value of your rivals’ goods, whilst extolling the merits of your own.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, countrymen and women, Romans, and lovers, lend me thine ears.

My own are not long enough; whereas –

Room for the Daily Nation. This broad-minded organ has declared against the Filippinos. [2] Hence we may now consider their cause as indeed hopeless. But worse than all: that newspaper now declares the insurgents to be “almost as degraded as the wretches who formed a provisional government for Paris during the Commune of 1871.”

Now just think of that. Those degraded wretches of the Commune held Paris for three months without the aid of policemen or detectives and yet, according to the testimony of many foreigners who then resided in that city, Paris was never so free from crime, life and property were never so safe.

They held the Bank of France in their power all that time, and yet left its treasures untouched; no one, not even their greatest enemy, has ever instanced a single case in which a member of the provisional Government of the Paris Commune enriched himself as a result of his political position.

Of what Irish political leaders of the present day can the same be said? Certainly not of the political chiefs of the Daily Nation.

The Commune, if it had been successful, would have inaugurated the reign of real freedom the world over – it would have meant the emancipation of the working class; therefore as it failed it serves as a mark for all the literary prostitutes who sell themselves into the service of capitalist journalism. Long live the Commune! If the Filippinos are akin to the members of the Commune may their shadows never grow less.

Yes, gentlemen, what we want is a Catholic University. [3] If we only had a Catholic University the poor ragged children who sit around the Catholic Boys’ Home in Abbey Street, or beg to find the copper necessary to procure their admission to its shelter, would have all their woes removed.

And the crowd of forlorn men and women who every night press for admission to the night refuge in Bow Street; the hungry outcasts who wait around the gates of the Mendicity [4]; the evicted tenants patiently waiting for restoration to their homes; the broken-hearted labourers toiling their lives away for a starvation wage; the unemployed wearily tramping from insolent foremen to overbearing employers; the slum dwellers poisoned by the pestiferous air of our city tenements; the peasant mentally and physically starved on his barren mountain patch, all, all would be initiated into the delights of a happy existence –

If only we had a Catholic University.

Some of us would be satisfied with less – most of those I have mentioned would, I think, but then they are only base plebeians, common working class people who would never see the inside of a university, anyhow.

When we speak of a university for the Catholics we don’t mean all the Catholics, but only a small portion of the whole body, viz. those who can afford to send their children to such places – shopkeepers, lawyers, gombeen men, rackrenting landlords, patriot publicans, slum proprietors, and other such bright jewels in the crown of the Church militant.

“Free Education up to the highest university grades” and, as a supplement to make it workable, “Free Maintenance for all children”, both planks in the Socialist Republican programme, might make the university question a popular one, but otherwise the agitation is simply bogus, a clerical-cum-capitalist dodge to divert our attention whilst a new bargain is being struck at our expense.

At least, so thinks




1. After the 22 October 1898 issue, The Workers’ Republic ceased publication due to the ISRP’s lack of resources.

2. There was widespread popular resistance in the Philippines to the United States, who had taken the islands from Spain the previous year.

3. Nationalist politicians were demanding a Catholic university as an equivalent of Trinity College.

4. The Mendicity Institution provided the homeless with beds for the night.


Last updated on 11.8.2003