Labour Militancy during the Irish War of Independence

  • Conor Kostick


Between 1918 and the conclusion of the Irish War of Independence in 1921 the organised Irish working class made five distinct and powerful interventions. On 23 April 1918 a general strike took place against the threat of conscription; for a month at the beginning of 1919 Belfast was gripped by a strike for a shorter working week; in April that year Limerick workers took over their city and declared soviet rule; in April 1920 a massive general strike forced the release of hungerstrikers; and for most of 1920 transport workers sabotaged the movements of men and material by the British Army. Alongside these set-piece battles was a general spirit of resistance and confidence in the possibility of taking action amongst Irish workers, who were themselves part of a great upsurge of revolutionary enthusiasm that was sweeping through Europe. For the context of Ireland’s struggle for independence was that of the dramatic and epoch-making prospect of working-class revolution spreading westwards from Russia. From October 1918 Germany was in the throes of revolutionary events, beginning with the mutiny of the sailors of the German High Seas Fleet. For the next five years the prospect of an extension of the Russian example through Germany terrified those in power and elated the European left. Even the victors in the First World War experienced internal social unrest, and Britain and France faced independence revolts in their colonies.


National Movement General Strike Hunger Striker Transport Worker Irish Time 
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© Conor Kostick 2005

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  • Conor Kostick

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