James Connolly


Irish Trade Union Congress

(15 April 1916)

Workers’ Republic, 15 April 1916.
Reprinted in Red Banner, No.12.
Transcribed by Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The approach of Easter reminds us that on the next succeeding National Holiday, Whit Monday, the Congress of the Irish Trade Unions will open at Sligo.

The Congress of last year was not held as it was felt that the intense political feelings engendered by the war would probably inject themselves into the proceedings of Congress with the possible result that in the heat and passion things might be said and done that would cause irreparable breaches in the ranks of Labour. Notably it was appreciated that the position of many delegates from Unions in the North would be seriously compromised, and the adhesion of their unions to the Congress endangered, if any discussion of the War should be brought on, and result in the deliverance of any anti-British pronouncement from leading delegates. It was also realised that no amount of caution could prevent some delegates from perhaps inadvertently raising some point connected with the administration and regulation of Labour under war conditions. In the then temper of the people of Ireland any spark might have set fire to a big conflagration such as might have consumed the whole edifice so painfully set up by the labours of past Congresses. For these reasons it was agreed to abandon the holding of the Congress in 1915.

But the prolongation of the war, and the increasingly evil condition of Labour in face of the greater power exercised by departments of the Government, the alarming increase of prices, the dearth of employment in the country, and the thousand and one other questions pressing for treatment make it imperative that this year the Congress be held.

The delegates will have a hard and difficult task set before them, and will need to bring to bear upon it all their wisdom and forethought. Timidity and rashness will be alike out of place, the delegates must be cautious, yet bold and courageous once a course of action is determined upon. They will be handicapped by the bad example set by the Labour Leaders of Great Britain in so shamefully surrendering all their hard won rights, but that handicap can be overcome. The arguments that justified the holding of separate congresses for Trade Unions in Ireland will also serve to justify the setting aside of the evil examples of so many of our British brothers.

We trust that all the bodies represented at previous Irish Trade Union Congresses, and more besides, will strain every effort to make the representation this year, alike in numbers and in quality, the greatest yet held.

Time presses. The date is Whit Week, the place is Sligo.


Last updated on 15.8.2003