While strolling on O’Connell Street, the largest avenue in Dublin, you will easily come across an imposing monument: that of Jim Larkin! This Irishman is still a great figure in Irish history. He is famous for his fight in favor of the poorest workers. A trade unionist and activist, he was as controversial as he was admired, and took part in major events of the time, including the Dublin Strike of 1913.
James (Jim) Larkin (1876 – 1947) is one of those emblematic figures who have forever marked Irish history. The latter became famous in a major fight, opposing him and his workers’ union to the big industries of Dublin, which he accused of underpaying its workforce.
His union, called “ITGWU” (Irish Transport and General Workers Union) aspired to more social justice and less drastic working conditions. For that, Jim Larkin, helped by James Connolly, launched in 1913 a series of strikes and boycotts against the big companies of the city.
In addition to this, Jim also multiplied the actions to unionize the non-unionized workers. These actions were particularly frowned upon by the employers.
The struggle lasted several months and ended in 1914.
Today, Jim Larkin remains a symbol of union activism. His fight, in favor of social justice and the workers, makes him a historical character still very appreciated within the Irish society.
It did not take much to dedicate to this man an imposing statue, located right on the main street of Dublin. Impossible to miss, it takes the form of an imposing pedestal, representing James Larkin calling out to the crowds, arms raised to the sky.
An inscription appears on the front of the pedestal, translated in French, English and Irish Gaelic:
Les grands ne sont grands que parce que nous sommes à genoux: Levons-nous.
Ní uasal aon uasal ach sinne bheith íseal: Éirímis.
The great appear great because we are on our knees: Let us rise.
A reference to a slogan, first used in the 18th century in a radical Parisian newspaper “Révolutions de Paris13 “. Picked up by James Connolly and Jim Larkin in their socialist struggle, the phrase has a resounding echo in Ireland.
On the west side of the pedestal of the statue, there is also a poem by the famous Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, dedicated to the Irish trade unionist:
And Tyranny trampled them in Dublin’s gutter
Until Jim Larkin came along and cried
The call of Freedom and the call of Pride
And Slavery crept to its hands and knees
And Nineteen Thirteen cheered from out the utter
Degradation of their miseries.
On the east side is a final quote from Drums under the Windows by Seán O’Casey:
…He talked to the workers, spoke as only Jim Larkin could speak, not for an assignation with peace, dark obedience, or placid resignation, but trumpet-tongued of resistance to wrong, discontent with leering poverty, and defiance of any power strutting out to stand in the way of their march onward.
The access to the monument is free, and is located right on the avenue, near the Spire and the GPO (General Post Office). Don’t hesitate to admire it: even if it takes only 5 minutes, it will allow you to better understand the Irish history of the 20th century.