Mr Bernard Shaw on the Strike
From the archive: This article, focusing on George Bernard Shaw and his role in a demonstration demanding the release of James Larkin, was published in The Irish Times on November 8, 1913
George Bernard Shaw, December 1928. Photograph: Getty Images
(First published November 8th, 1913)
People advised to arm themselves against the police.
Mr G Bernard Shaw was amongst the speakers at a demonstration held in the Royal Albert Hall last Saturday night, under the auspices of the Daily Herald League. On behalf of the Dublin strikers, and to demand the immediate release of James Larkin. During the evening the Chairman announced the receipt of the following telegram from Mr Larkin:
“Jim Larkin sends greetings. With you in spirit, though body in Mountjoy Prison.” (Cheers.)
Mr Bernard Shaw, rising to speak at a quarter to ten, received a great ovation. I am, he said, an old Dublin Home Ruler like Sir Edward Carson. (Laughter.) Being an intelligent Irishman, I left Ireland at the age of twenty. (More laughter.) I have not lived there since, and I do intend to live there again, but I am glad to hear from Mr Connolly, who knows Dublin, that these twenty thousand families of whom he speaks have a right to live. In my time there was no such luxury. (Laughter.) You very often had two families in one room, and both of the families took in lodgers. I am not quite sure that you would not find occasionally in Dublin at the present time a room which contained more than one family. It had been said that children were a great safeguard of morality in Dublin, and there were some dwellings in Dublin that if they took the children out of them the adults would misbehave themselves. (Laughter.) “Don’t laugh at that,” said Mr Shaw, “It is a most appalling thing, and I believe there are people who say that at the present day. I believe that within the last few days there have been people who have given that as a reason for not allowing the children to leave Dublin. Ponder over it a little and you will realise the situation.”
The Deportation of Children
He referred to the desire to take the children away from Dublin, and said he was there as a Dublin man to apologise for the priests of Dublin. The honest truth about it was that those men, although they were pious and were doing a good deal of good work, were very ignorant and simple men in the affairs of the country, and especially in industrial affairs. If by any means these words reached them he hoped they would be obliged to him for the apology he had made for them. If these words reached them he hoped these further words would reach them also and that was that there was something even more terrible than the horror of their individual action, and that was the terror of the great Church to which they belonged being made the catspaw of a gentleman like Mr Murphy. (Laughter.)
As to the employers of Dublin, he was utterly ashamed of them. He did not, however, apologise for them. Why, even an Englishman could employ people at decent trade union wages occasionally – (laughter) – and make his business pay, and there were Irishmen like Mr Murphy and the biscuit gentlemen who told them they were so destitute of business capacity that they were unable to make their business pay under the conditions in which business was made to pay in England. If they were made to pay decent wages they would find they were just as well able to do it as the English found they could when the Factory Acts made them do it. They would have to make all the English employers do it, and it would be a very good thing to take the opportunity while Irish people were making their employers do it.