In this essay, we will examine the 1913 Lockout and how the Lockout influenced the future landscape of an Independent Ireland. We will look at the prelude to the Lockout and the outcomes of the Lockout. We will trace the issues that brought about the Lockout and we will analyse how the Lockout steered Ireland in a direction it could not change.
Throughout the United Kingdom, the divisions between the labour movement and employers had deepened greatly in the early years of the twentieth century. Strikes had occurred frequently in many places, but it seemed that industrial relations were becoming more settled in the beginning of the second decade of the century. For the most part, Dublin had escaped labour unrest. In 1900, the Dublin Chamber of Commerce confidently declared ‘We are pleased to note the growing disposition of all classes to unite in promoting the best interests of our country’. This harmony did not last and in 1913, the Labour movement in Dublin became involved in a serious conflict with the employers, known as the Lockout.
A major issue during this period was housing. Most people today would believe that everyone has the right to live in a clean and safe environment. This clean and safe environment certainly did not exist for all those who lived in Dublin. At the time of the Lockout, many unskilled workers lived in extreme poverty. Housing conditions were appalling and many people were exposed to disease and infection. Overcrowding in large houses called tenements aided this spread of disease. The slums of Dublin were as bad as anywhere at the time. Over twenty thousand families lived in a one-room dwelling. Upper class houses of past were converted to allow greedy property owners to have as many tenants as possible in one building. This practice of putting multiple families into a house quickly developed slums. This was known by James Connolly, one of those who would come to fight for the poor:
Ireland is a country of wonderful charity and singularly little justice. And Dublin, being the epitome of Ireland, it is not strange to find that Dublin, a city famous for its charitable institutions and its charitable citizens, should also be infamous for the perfectly hellish conditions under which its people are housed, and under which its men, women and children labour for a living.
One event in particular highlighted the plight of the working classes. In 1913, two houses in Church Street unexpectedly collapsed. The occupants of the building were trapped. Seven people were killed and many more were injured. The building was dilapidated and not fit for people to live in. This incident showed that the property owners did not care about their tenants. Most people were shocked that such an event could occur but others were less surprised. Mr R. G. Pilkington of the Dublin Citizens’ Association Committee on Housing wrote in the Irish Times that ‘the mass of the citizens are in ignorance of the real wants of the city. ... We have evidence to...