From Ahawadda to Dáil Éireann… The Amazing Story of Labour Organiser, Sean Dunne.

The Revolutionary period and the subsequent creation of the Irish Free State and later the Republic has given rise to some amazing family stories. Very few can surpass the story of Sean Dunne, a Trade Union organiser, mentored by Jim Larkin and later Labour Party TD.


Filmed in West Cork, this discussion with local historian and author Diarmuid Kingston reveals the account of the Ahawadda Ambush (located on the road to Ring outside Timoleague) on 10th May1920, in which three Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) lost their lives in an ambush. This was the greatest loss of life of old RIC members in a single ambush in West Cork during the War of Independence.


Among them was Constable Edward Dunne from Co Laois. He was 32 years old, married to Bridget Coppinger, a school teacher with two children. Their young son Sean, was born in December 1918 in Timoleague. Constable Edward Dunne was buried quietly in Raheen in Co Laois.


Sean grew up in Waterford and Wicklow and in the late 30s was arrested and served time in the Curragh Internment Camp for Republican activities. He came under the influence of Jim Larkin and the Workers’ Union of Ireland and became one of the most effective union organisers in rural Ireland in the 1940s, founding the Federation of Rural Workers (FRW), which had up to 20,000 members at its height.


As its General Secretary, he organised countless strikes among rural workers and was instrumental in campaigning for and obtaining the weekly half day for his members in the early 1950s.


Later he was elected a TD for the Labour Party, when he was just 28 years old, and became one of the most colourful elected public representatives in the Dail. He had the record of being ejected from two parliaments, Dail Eireann and Stormont, as well as British Labour Party conferences.. Once labelled “an extreme communist” by Sean MacEntee,


Sean Dunne was described by one political correspondent as being “in daily conflict with Authority on cases of social justice, on the side of the lost nobodies of the world”.


His famous Leabhar Ballyfermot which he always carried contained the details of his constituents’ problems. Trade union organiser, writer, playwright, orator, Irish speaker and campaigner for social justice, this west Cork born politician died suddenly following the General Election in 1969.


His funeral at the Pro-Cathedral was attended by President Eamonn De Valera, Taoiseach Jack Lynch, Fine Gael Leader Liam Cosgrave and the Cabinet and thousands of workers.


He had travelled a very long road in life and his virtual State funeral was in stark contrast to that of his father who was buried quietly in a graveyard in Co Laois almost 50 years earlier.


In this film documentary discussion with Diarmuid Kingston, we look at the Ahawadda Ambush and we examine the subsequent life of Sean Dunne T.D, a remarkable trade union organiser.


Diarmuid is the author of Beleaguered (A History of the RIC in West Cork during the War of Independence) and has written extensively on the period.


The film will be shown during the forthcoming Spirit of Mother Jones festival and forms part of our contribution to Cork Commemoration 1920-23.


Visit www.motherjonescork.com and festival Facebook from November 23rd for the full programme as well as the links to join in the festival from Thursday 27th November to Monday 30th November.

“Get off your knees” – the Rosemary Feurer lecture 2014

At the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival 2014 an important paper was delivered Professor Rosemary Feurer of Northern Illinois University.  Prof. Feurer, who had also spoken at the inaugural festival in Cork in 2012, examined the parallel activities of Mother Jones and the great Irish socialist leaders James Connolly and “Big Jim” Larkin, in particular looking at the similar paths they followed, both geographical and philosophical and conclusions they reached.

You can download the full text of Prof. Feurer’s lecture by clicking on the link below:-

Get Off Your Knees Feurer

 

Rosemary Feurer
Rosemary Feurer in Cork, August 2014 with the banner of Women Against Pit Closures from the UK Miner’s Strike 1984

Rosemary Feurer is Professor of History at Northern Illinois University.  She co-directed “Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman”.  Author, she writes extensively on labour history.  Rosemary is Administrator of www.motherjonesmuseum.org website and Mother Jones Lives.  She attended the inaugural Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork in 2012 and delivered the above lecture at the same festival on August 1st, 2014.   You can download the full lecture by clicking on the link below:

James Connolly in the USA

A new exhibition which has just opened at the Irish Consulate in New York, throws interesting new light on Irish socialist leader James Connolly’s years in the United States between 1903 and 1910.

Connolly in NYC

James Connolly addresses a May Day rally at Union Square, New York City, 1908. Source: US Library of Congress

 

The exhibition follows Connolly through a series of newspaper clippings, posters, pamphlets, photos and his own writings in the Harp, newspaper of the Irish Socialist Federation.

This story is featured in today’s (28th September) Irish Times – you can read the full story here.

 

Launch of Connolly Book

Cork Concert Adv0002 (1)An exciting new songbook written over a century by James Connolly will be relaunched in Cork next week along with a CD featuring the songs from the book.

“Songs of Freedom – the James Conolly Songbook”, edited by Mat Callahan with a preface by writer and poet Theo Dorgan and a Foreword by Connolly’s grandson James Connolly Heron will be launched on Wednesday, 2nd October at 6.30pm at Cork City Library.  The launch will be followed with a Concert at the Pavilion, Carey’s Lane (off Patrick Street) (Admission €10).

This is a not to be missed occasion for socialists, music aficionados and historians.  See attached poster for full details.