A City in Conflict

From Lockout to Independence

The poverty that consumed the city in the 19th century continued into the 1900s and living conditions in the tenements continued to decline.

Harsh working conditions only made matters worse, as employers benefited greatly from a workforce with little union representation or employment rights.

In 1909, James Larkin established the Irish Transport and General Workers Union (ITGWU) in Dublin. The ITGWU drew a large membership from the city’s working class and a number of factory strikes followed its foundation.

Liberty Hall

Liberty Hall, headquarters of the ITGWU. ‘We serve neither King nor Kaiser, but Ireland’ reads the banner above the building. Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.

Members of the Irish Women Workers' Union on the steps of Liberty Hall

Members of the Irish Women Workers’ Union on the steps of Liberty Hall. Courtesy of National Library of Ireland.

Strikes & the Lockout

In 1911, workers at W. & R. Jacob and Co’s Biscuit Company went on strike, including 3,000 women. Among them was 18-year-old Rosie Hackett, who was instrumental in resolving the dispute. Hackett, who had lived in a tenement on Bolton Street, afterwards helped found the Irish Women’s Workers Union (IWWU).

The increased organisation of Irish workers came to a head on 26 August 1913, with the beginning of ‘the Lockout’, as the city’s tramway workers went on strike. The owner of the Dublin Tramway Company, William Martin Murphy, retaliated by asking his workers to sign a pledge rejecting the ITGWU. Hundreds of other employers followed suit.

The Lockout & the Aftermath

The standoff that ensued led to the dismissal of thousands of workers from Dublin’s factories and added to the already dire living conditions endured by the working class.

The collapse of two tenement buildings on Church Street in September 1913 claimed the lives of four people and led to the Dublin Housing Inquiry in 1914. Although the resulting report laid bare the scale of the tenement crisis, efforts at resolution were delayed by war and revolution, leaving the city’s housing problems unaddressed until well into the 20th century.


The Dublin Lockout 1913

The Dublin Lockout 1913

Prof. Fearghal McGarry, QUB) on Tom Clarke, one of the seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation and once ower of a tobacco shop on Amiens Street. Courtesy of Century Ireland.

Nationalism during WWII

Alongside the Labour movement, Irish nationalism continued to grow in the early 20th century. In 1913, thousands gathered at the Rotunda to join the Irish Volunteers, and Cumann na mBan, was founded in Wynn’s Hotel on Middle Abbey Street soon afterwards.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 brought a halt to the Irish Home Rule movement. Many Dubliners joined the British Army, including members of the city’s working class, who desperately needed a wage. Others saw England’s difficulty as Ireland’s opportunity and plotted to wrest power from the British administration.

The North Inner City was a hotbed of Republican activity: the Irish Citizen Army was stationed in Liberty Hall, the Hibernian Rifles were at 28 North Frederick Street and Tom Clarke, the veteran Fenian who became one of seven signatories of the 1916 Proclamation, owned a tobacco shop at 55 Amiens Street, before relocating to Parnell Street.

The Rising

On Easter Week 1916, Dublin’s North Inner City was the location of much fighting and destruction. Local residents took part in the conflict and some were also involved in the looting that took place during the chaos. Civilian casualties were not uncommon, as innocent people got caught in the crossfire. The North Inner City played a big part in the War of Independence (1919-1921) too, including two major episodes in the conflict: ‘Bloody Sunday’ (21 Nov. 1920) and the burning of the Custom House (25 May 1921).

Abbey Street and Sackville Street (O'Connell Street) shelled, rubble remains

Abbey Street and Sackville Street (O'Connell Street) shelled, rubble remains