May 1st, International Workers’ Day was celebrated in warm sunshine in Dublin with a parade and rally organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and a later event organised by the Independent Workers’ Union.
The DCTU-organised event met at the Garden of Remembrance at 2pm and set off at nearly 3pm, with numbers although still small by European standards nevertheless larger than has been seen for some time in Dublin, according to the organisers filling O’Connell Street, the city’s main street throughout its whole length (500 metres or 547 yards).
Seen on the parade were trade union banners, those of some political parties, also of campaigns and community groups.
As it has been doing for years, the parade ended in a rally in Beresford Place, in front of Liberty Hall, the very tall building owned by the SIPTU trade union, where the audience were addressed by speakers from trade unions and campaigns and NGOs.
Curiously, soon after arrival the comparatively strong showing of Sinn Féin flags, the green one with their logo and the blue and white version of the Starry Plough, were nowhere to be seen.
The issues of lack of affordable housing, of public land being sold for private housing and speculation, of precarious employment, of financial speculation and cuts in services were addressed by speakers, with a mention also of solidarity for the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. A number of speakers also addressed the treatment of migrants and in particular the conditions suffered by refugees in the Direct Provision hostels of the state’s welfare service.
Somewhat later, the Independent Workers’ Union held their own event, marching with a colour party from their offices to James Connolly monument, also in Beresford Place and across the road from Liberty Hall.
Damien Keogh chaired the event and introduced veteran campaigner Sean Doyle who gave a short and to the point speech about the situation in which working people find themselves today and ending with a quotation from James Connolly, in which the revolutionary socialist castigated those who claimed to love Ireland but could tolerate seeing poverty and deprivation among its people. Doyle also sent solidarity greetings to the Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike in Israeli jails.
Paul Bowman was then introduced and in a longer speech covered Connolly’s time in the USA, his membership of and activities of the IWW (“the Wobblies”); the Haymarket Incident in Chicago which led to the choosing of May 1st as International Workers’ Day and the state murder of the Haymarket Martyrs; the principles and attitude of the IWU today.
Damien then introduced Diarmuid Breatnach to sing “We Only Want the Earth” (an alternative title to the original of “Be Moderate”). Breatnach explained that the lyrics had been composed by James Connolly and published in a songbook of his in New York in 1907 without an air. As a consequence the lyrics have been sung to a variety of airs but Breatnach said he sings it to the air of “A Nation Once Again” (composed originally by Thomas Davis some time between 1841 and 1845). This arrangement provides a chorus and Breatnach invited the audience to join in the chorus with him, which they did.
“We only want the Earth,
we only want the Earth,
And our demands most moderate are:
We only want the Earth!”
A wreath was laid at the monument on behalf of the IWU by Leanne Farrell.
The chairperson then thanked those in attendance, speakers and singer and invited all back to the offices of the IWU in the North Strand for refreshments.