The lives of James “Big Jim” Larkin and James Connelly will be forever linked after the pair became political partners from 1910 to 1914 and created the modern Irish Labour Party. Read more: Jim Larkin | Wikipedia and James Larkin | Ireland Calling
Connelly was a well-educated republican who had traveled to the U.S. to build his career as a union organizer but it was Jim Larkin who captured the imagination of the public with his own brand of emotional and powerful rhetoric delivered to workers about their human rights.
Larkin had arrived in Belfast in 1907 after falling out of favor with the leaders of the English National Dock Laborers union whom he served as an organizer.
The NDLU asked Larkin to divide his time between the docks of Belfast and Dublin where less than 10 percent of the workforce were members of the union; by 1908, Larkin had seen the need for more wide-ranging union representation and created the Irish Transport and General Workers Union aimed at including tram workers in the union in the future.
The return of Connelly from the U.S. in 1910 gave Larkin’s own career fresh impetus and led to the pair establishing the Irish Labour Party in 1912 with the aim of providing political representation for the working-classes.
Jim Larkin was committed to providing a brighter future for the people of Ireland which he believed meant independence from English rule, a dream he would see fulfilled in 1921 for what would become the Republic of Ireland.
Although he is often portrayed as a man unhappy with the advancement of others in the Irish Labour Party or the ITGWU, Larkin was deeply affected when news reached him in the U.S. of the death by British Firing Squad of James Connelly following the Easter Rising of 1916.
By the time of the Easter Rising, Larkin had been forced out of Dublin by a group of 400 industrialists and business owners who used the newspapers of the time to fight against the rise of Larkin as a political leader in 2013.
Eventually returning to Dublin in 1920, Jim Larkin died in 1947 and was given a funeral worthy of his history as one of the great fighters on behalf of the Irish people with more than 200,000 attending his funeral in Dublin.