Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2870

New work tracks joint struggle in Ireland and Scotland

In his new work, Dave Sherry looks at the connections and solidarity that workers a sea away from each other shared—and argues that this history should be celebrated
Issue 2870
Ireland Scotland socalist

Links between Ireland ansd Scottish resistance are revealed in new book The Irish Revolution and Red Clydeside

Red Clydeside marked a high level of working class resistance in Glasgow spanning the years 1910 to 1923. 

It coincided with the momentous revolt in Ireland against British imperial rule that culminated in its war of independence. 

There were already connections established and solidarity forged between those who lived on both sides of the Irish Sea. 

That was not surprising given the interaction between the people of what became Ireland and Scotland.  In the early 17th century the Scottish ruling class pioneered the colonisation of Ulster.

This meant that since the 1840s, a significant part of the Irish population was forced to either migrate to Clydeside or travel back and forth as itinerant, seasonal labour. 

I was asked to write on this subject and speak on it as part of this summer’s Govanhill International Festival. This event celebrates the diversity of the local community and its rich working class history. 

The history of Glasgow’s Southside—notably Govanhill and the Gorbals—is one of successive movements of the population from different parts of the world, including Ireland.

My work covers events such as the Dublin Lock-Out, which won tremendous solidarity from those living in Clydeside. 

It looks at the Suffragettes, the Irish Home Rule Crisis and the1916 Rising. It features John Maclean and the anti‑war movement, the Clyde munitions strikes, and the successful Glasgow rent strike.

Such great events were part of an international struggle that inspired revolution across Europe and rebellion in the colonies of the imperial powers.  

A key figure in the 1916 Easter Rising In Ireland, James Connolly was born in Edinburgh’s Cowgate slum then known as Little Ireland. Scotland

He lived in Scotland until he was 28 and was prominent in the Scottish labour movement before moving to Dublin.

In 1896 he accepted an offer to be a socialist organiser there and, on arrival, formed the Irish Socialist Republican Party. 

He maintained close links with his many contacts on Clydeside during his activity in Ireland and the United States. He did so until his execution by a firing squad in 1916. 

In 1915 the authorities banned his Irish newspaper. It was printed illegally by the Socialist Labour Party in Glasgow and smuggled to him in Dublin by Arthur MacManus, a munitions shop steward.

Margaret Skinnider was a teacher born in Coatbridge to Irish parents. She joined the women’s movement founded to support Irish independence and was one of the 100 women who fought in Dublin in Easter 1916. 

Feminist, suffragette, republican socialist, trade unionist and dispatch rider, she was the best sniper in Connolly’s Citizen Army. 

In 1919 there were 35 branches of Sinn Fein in Scotland, and its membership rose to 30,000.  Shortly after the 40 hours strike paralysed Belfast and triggered the Battle of George Square, Glasgow held its biggest ever Mayday march.  

Reports tell of “150,000 marching, widespread strikes and many children taken out of school to participate”. A Sinn Fein pipe band led the march with Irish tricolours and union banners and the singing of The Soldier’s Song and The Red Flag. 

That evening John Maclean shared a platform with ILP leader John Wheatley and Irish, republican socialist, Constance Markievicz the first woman elected to Westminster. 

The links between the Red Clyde and the events in Ireland are an important part of our history. The message for working people today—struggling in a new age of barbarism and catastrophe is best summed in by the phrase made famous by James Connolly, “The great only appear great because we are on our knees—let us rise!”

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