Padraig Yeates’s review

Published in 18th–19th - Century History, Issue 6 (November/December 2013), Letters, Volume 21

9Sir,—In ending his review of my book Irish Socialist Republicanism, 1909–36 (HI 21.4, July/Aug. 2013), Padraig Yeates states that I provide ‘many insights into the pursuit of [a workers’ republic] in the 1920s and 1930s that would have been better served by a deeper analysis of the decade before the Treaty’. The review (which, apart from the above, concentrates solely on the decade before the Treaty) contains a number of criticisms of my analysis that deserve comment. Yeates claims that I assert that ‘Larkin’s arrival in Ireland and the establishment of the [ITGWU] heralded the advent of a united Labour movement with a socialist republic as its goal and the capacity to win the leadership of the radical nationalist movement’. In fact, I make no assertion of the sort. I do claim that the ITGWU was an organisation with a socialist republic as its goal, but make it abundantly clear that the Labour movement as a whole was divided on many issues, not least the idea of a workers’ republic. The first two chapters of the book devote a lot of space to these divisions and the effect that the growth of the ITGWU and its radical ethos had on the Labour movement in general. The third chapter goes even further in exploring the divisions over political strategy that existed in the Labour movement from 1916 to 1923, including a detailed section on the decision to withdraw from the general election of 1918 (pp 83–91).
Yeates is undoubtedly one of the leading experts on the subject of the 1913 Lockout. He takes issue with my contention that the decision by the British TUC not to adopt sympathetic action in support of the Dublin workers ensured their defeat. This is open to debate, but my point that the same decision bolstered the ethos of the ITGWU amongst Irish workers is where the thrust of the argument lies. The perception that the British Labour leadership did not understand Irish conditions was central to the very idea that was causing division in the Irish Labour movement—that of Larkinism, with its republican and socialist overtones.—Yours etc.,

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