James Connolly


The Immorality of Dublin


Workers’ Republic, 23 October 1915.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.9.
Transcribed Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

We are hearing a good deal lately about the increasing immorality of Dublin. A lady member of the Irish aristocracy has aired her views upon the matter, town councillors have passed their verdict, and all the capitalist newspapers have joined in the shriek, and all the world has been duly informed of the terrible degradation of Dublin.

Is it not time we had some straight talk upon this matter? We are not likely to have such straight talk from any of the orthodox sources which to-day we see turning up the whites of their eyes as they prate of this great evil.

We want them to tell us what is the cause of this immorality, and what remedy they suggest. We will not be told the true cause, and we will hear of no remedy except a police remedy, which is just no remedy at all.

Whatever immorality there is in Dublin arises in the first place from the horrible poverty in which the people live, and the awful dens in which such a large number of people are housed. For the horrible poverty the class which makes the outcry about immorality is principally responsible. If we could analyse the sources from which Lady Fingal and all the other brood of unctuous praters derive their incomes we would find that almost all of them are in one way or another interested in maintaining present conditions in Dublin, either as owners of land upon which our slums are built, owners of house property, or shareholders in banks which have lent money to those who do own house or ground rent rights in our city. They are all in the relation to Dublin immorality of cause and effect.

We have said it before, we say it again – we will continue saying it till Dublin sweeps these hell holes away, that the girl or woman who maintains her purity amidst the awful filth, crowding and darkness of our slums has gone through a greater trial than martyrdom at the stake, and deserves a greater veneration than many who suffered in that manner.

Martyrdom at the stake was the brief suffering of a few moments – a paroxysm of exquisite agony with all the world looking on, an agony tempered with the joy of defying your enemy to the last. But the long-drawn-out agony of an ill-lighted, pestilential, fever-haunted, over-crowded slum, where the very air is laden with filthy talk, where the drunken quarrels of one family drown the domestic endearments of its neighbour, where the daily talk of one foul-mouthed slut can teach obscenity to the children of a score of parents, where privacy is impossible, where vice in lazy ease mocks daily at virtue in bedraggled poverty – to come out morally unscathed out of such a fire is to earn the respect and admiration of all who know and think.

One cause of the immorality of Dublin is its awful poverty. Take any large city of a similar size, where the wages of the men are poor, and where there is little work for the women and girls, and where such work as exists is most shamefully underpaid, and we will find the Devil reaping a similar harvest.

Abolish the Slums, the poverty of the men, and the sweating of the women and girls, and you will be making war upon vice in Dublin.

One other cause is the Garrison. Every military centre in a large city is a stink-pot of immorality.

Especially since the war broke out, and since every agency in the press and on the platform began praising the military, vice has been running rampant in Ireland. To be a soldier is to be forgiven every crime. Drunkenness, bigamy, assault, theft, perjury, seduction, wife desertion, abandonment of helpless children, are daily forgiven in our courts if only the accused is a soldier. Soldiers charged with rape are discharged even when confronted with evidence which would get any civilian penal servitude. The attitude of the official, loyal, Jingo classes to the soldier is shown in the fact that these people who are protesting against the evil life of Dublin all know that the present saturnalia of vice centres round the soldier, but they dare not say so lest it should discourage recruiting. They want militarism without its results. They cannot have it. An evil tree must bring forth evil fruits.

Let us test this by a simple example, as the writer has tested it.

There is a law which instructs the police to arrest at once any woman or girl seen accosting a man in the street, importuning him to go with her. No other evidence is required than the statement of the policeman that he saw her accost several men. But if the reader will take his stand any night at the corner of O’Connell Street and Bachelor’s Walk, of College Green or Dame Street, of Grafton Street, High Street and Christ Church Place, the Quays, Rathmines Road or Portobello Bridge, or a dozen other places where people congregate, he will see soldiers continually accosting and importuning girls and women, and policemen smilingly looking on. We have seen two soldiers under the influence of liquor accost at least a dozen girls, pester them with their presence, and force their company upon them until the victims were compelled to walk out in the middle of the street in order to get past. If the girls themselves or any of their male relatives had slapped the faces of these brutes as they deserved they would have been at once arrested for doing so, but the big lout of a policeman looked on at their bestiality and grinned his approval.

Tommy Atkins must have his pleasures, even although Irish girls are ruined.

Hundreds of Irish mothers in Dublin will yet curse the army whose soldiers ruined their daughters, and curse the government whose courts and police set a premium upon the military uniform as a cloak for and safeguard against the punishment of male immorality.

If you would make Dublin clean in its moral standards


But the authorities won’t. They must have the garrison to menace our lives and liberties; what matter then if our womankind do suffer. What are the womankind of slaves good for, anyway?

Then for God’s sake quit your canting talk about the immorality of Dublin. My lords and ladies, you and your rule are the tree that bears that fruit.


Last updated on 14.8.2003