Socialism may not be as popular in the 21st-century as it was in the early part of the 20th-century but for many in Ireland the shadow of socialist trade union leader, “Big” Jim Larkin still passes over the city of Dublin and the entire nation of Ireland.
The early 20th-century was one of the most difficult times in the history of Ireland with issues relating to British rule, workers rights, and a fast-moving movement seeking independence for the nation.
In the midst of these wide-ranging issues stepped Jim Larkin, born in Liverpool, England to Irish parents the trade union organizer believed he was more Irish than English and set out to assist in settling many of the problems the nation faced.
Arriving in Ireland in 1907 after his work over the previous two years for the National Dock Laborers Union clashed with the aims and strategies of the trade union leaders; a dedicated Socialist, Larkin would find himself at the heart of the problems facing the Irish worker in his first days trying to unionize the dock laborers of Belfast and Dublin.
Eventually, the work of Jim Larkin would be too large to be limited to the concerns of the NDLU and would inspire him to form two of the most important political groups in the history of Ireland, the Irish Labour Party and the Irish Transport and General Workers Union.
Larkin himself would take much of the responsibility for the establishment of both groups and took on both the failures and successes of the group on his own shoulders.
“Big” Jim Larkin, as he became known by those who followed his Republican and Socialist beliefs may have completed little in terms of formal education but had educated himself to such an extent he was able to become a success as the editor of a socialist newspaper which became the most important propaganda tool for the Republican cause and worker’s rights in the nation.