“An emblem of the aspirations of working people in Dublin”
During the early years of the last century trade unionist, writer and political activist James Connolly gave voice to the aspirations and hopes of ordinary people in Dublin. He envisioned a city free of tenement slums, a city welcoming to immigrants and one run efficiently for the benefit of its people.
Dublin has entered a time of historic commemoration. Central to this period are the 100th Anniversaries of the Lockout of 1913, the start of World War I in 1914 and the Easter Rising of 1916. These dramatic episodes in the last century shaped modern Dublin and still impact on all those who live in the city.
James Connolly links all these events. He was to the fore in organising workers in Dublin in their fight for recognition and a living wage. During the Rising in 1916 he led the men and women of the Irish Citizens’ Army from the ITGWU headquarters in Liberty Hall to the GPO. He was the driving force behind the production of the Easter Proclamation, the foundation text of our Republic, which was printed in the ITGWU headquarters in Liberty Hall. He was vocal in his opposition to World War I but remained sympathetic to the plight of the young men, from all Ireland’s communities, who, as he had done years earlier, joined the British Army.
His activities during these years represent more than just the actions of one man, no matter how crucial. Rather, they speak of the aspirations and desires of working people in Dublin at the beginning of the revolutionary period. Connolly inspired not only through his leadership qualities but also his writings in which he laid out his vision for an equal and progressive Ireland, one in which people of all creeds, colours, genders and backgrounds were united. His support for the women’s movement has seen him recognised as one of Ireland’ first feminist writers.
The life of Dublin’s workers was one which the Connolly family of James, wife Lillie and their six children, shared, living in the oppressive conditions of Dublin’s inner-city tenements as they strove for a better life, not just for them, but also their community.
The new transport bridge lies at the very centre of James Connolly’s Dublin, between the headquarters of the union that he helped found, and O’Connell Street – where he led the rebel forces in 1916 and was severely wounded. Still suffering from his wounds Connolly was strapped to a chair in Kilmainham Gaol and executed by firing squad on 12th May 1916.
The idea of an efficient public transport system was also one Connolly championed as he organised the city’s tram workers. Perhaps most importantly of all the bridge will be opened in the summer of 2013 – exactly 100 years after Connolly led the transport workers of Dublin in their greatest struggle for recognition and a decent life for their families.
Naming the bridge in memory of James Connolly would, in the man’s own words, be a fitting tribute to “Brave, heroic Dublin! Ever battling for the right, ever suffering, ever consecrating by the blood of your children the weary milestones of the path of progress!” (James Connolly, Irish Worker, August, 1914)
Among the leading cultural figures backing the campaign are singers Imelda May, Christy Moore, Andy Irvine, Mary Black and Frances Black; actors Bryan Murray, Gabriel Byrne and Jer O’Leary; author Irvine Welsh; comedians Brendan Grace and Brendan O’Carroll; poets Theo Dorgan and Paula Meehan, as well as artist Robert Ballagh and Dublin GAA star Alan Brogan.