general strikes in ireland

map of ireland

1919 - "limerick soviet" created to protest british martial law
for the previous two years previous the local trades council of limerick had been publishing 'the bottom dog', a weekly working class paper which claimed to represent the interests of the"bottom dog"; those oppressed because of their class, sex or nationality. the irish transport and general workers union (itgwu), which claimed 3,000 members in limerick city, also recruited heavily in the countryside and a wave of farm labourers strikes swept the county. it was in this context of trade union militancy and the republican war against british rule that a momentous event (dubbed the "limerick soviet") occurred.

the incident that sparked it was the death of local irish republican army (ira) officer robert byrne, who was also a delegate to the trades council from the irish post office clerks association. byrne had gone on hunger strike and an ira rescue attempt had failed, leaving byrne and an ric man mortally injured. in retaliation for the policeman's death the british army occupied the city area and declared martial law. everyone passing in or out of the city had show special military passes.

the trades council called a general strike in protest. for the next two weeks the council ran the city. no shop opened without their permission. food prices were regulated to stop profiteering. only transport authorised by the council was able to move through the city. printing presses were taken over to explain their case and a daily bulletin was produced. the council even issued its own money. british soldiers were called on to desert their "imperialist capitalist government". it is said that a whole scottish regiment was sent home for refusing to obey orders.

from workers solidarity, a publication of the workers solidarity movement.

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