Nenagh conference examines links between lockout and bailout

At the opening night of From Lockout to Bail at Nenagh Arts Centre,  Jack O'Connor, general president of Siptu; Jack Harte, writer; Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times; Kathleen O'Meara, dead of advocacy and communications for the Irish Cancer Society; Gerry Coffey, session moderator, and Caitriona Crowe, head of special projects at the National Archives Picture: Padraig O Flannabhra
Nenagh marked the centenary of the Dublin lockout with a weekend of talks and lectures in the local arts centre centring around the theme, From Lockout to Bailout.

Nenagh marked the centenary of the Dublin lockout with a weekend of talks and lectures in the local arts centre centring around the theme, From Lockout to Bailout.

Among those taking part were Jack O’Connor, president of Siptu; Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times columnist; Catriona Crowe, National Archives of Ireland; Dr Peadar Kirby, Dr Tom Collins, Dr Mary Murphy, as well as Canon Stephen Neill, Miriam Lewis of Borrisokane Development Association and Clare Ni Mhadagain of Borrisokane’s Stella FM.

Opening the event, Mr O’Connor said the lockout was the “opening salvo in a decade of rebellion” and must be viewed in the context of what was happening in the Western capitalist world.

“What was planned was planned by Irishmen against fellow Irishmen and the real agenda was to make sure the wretched and the poor did not have any mechanism to form the character of Home Rule Ireland, “ he said.

It was important to remember the lockout, which he described as an “attack by the rich on the poor”.

While William Martin Murphy had not succeeded, post-revolution Ireland was formed by the outlook or Murphy and not James Larkin, he pointed out.

“Ireland venerated the exploiter and confused three-car trickery with entrepreneurship and brought us to the bank bailout,” said Mr O’Connor.

Mr O’Toole picked up on this theme, saying those in power in 1913 had launched an attack to assert their will and influence over others, much as what had happened five years ago with the bank guarantee that had “imposed on ordinary people the gambling debts of casino bankers”.

However, he doubted William Martin Murphy would have got away with taking over E100bn from the Irish people.

Mr O’Toole said 1913 was about saying who was in charge at a time when change was coming.

He said housing had been an issue in 1913. It was a time when housing was a commodity and if you had no money you lived in a hovel.

And while the State had built social housing after the lockout to replace the tenements, it had abandoned social housing in the 1990s and this was one of the reasons we got the boom.

However, he said that what had sustained the people in the lockout was their sense of dignity and we needed to recover our sense of collective dignity.

“We have been humiliated, treated like children and told we are doing a great job. However, we can take hope from 1913, hope for the future of our children, hope that something that will make a difference wil emerge,” he said.

Quoting Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s pre-election promise to “build the best little country to do business in”, Mr O’Toole said he would have preferred if that had been “the best little country to raise children in”.

Catriona Crowe outlined the social context of the lockout, illustrating her talk with harrowing pictures of some of the conditions in the tenements, while writer Jack Harte put WB Yates poem, September 1913 in context, reminding people that it had actually been written as a response to a refusal to fund a new gallery to house the Hugh Lane Collection.

Following a discussion on Saturday about the role of community development associations and local groups in developing a new Ireland, Nenagh author Donal Ryan was interviewed before a large crowd in the arts centre by Gerry Coffey.

Sunday saw the inaugural Tomas Mac Giolla Lecture by historian Brian Hanley, which traced Mac Giolla’s life and influences up to and including the founding of Sinn Fein the Workers Party, the Workers Party, and Democratic Left and its merger with the Labour Party.