Documentary tells story of Limerick Soviet that became global news in 1919

Workers went on strike after British military introduced martial law on Shannonside

Military permits became a  requirement for  entering or leaving Limerick, and the Limerick Soviet of 1919 was set up in response.

Military permits became a requirement for entering or leaving Limerick, and the Limerick Soviet of 1919 was set up in response.

 

The Limerick Soviet of 1919 became worldwide news because of the presence of an international press corps in the city to cover a transatlantic flight, according to a new film documentary.

The role of the international media in reporting on the establishment of a worker’s soviet on Shannonside is told in The Limerick Soviet, a new documentary by Cork company, Frameworks Films.

According to one of the contributors, former Labour TD, the late Frank Prendergast, it was entirely fortuitous that so many reporters were in Limerick when the soviet was set up in April 1919.

“There were hundreds of international journalists and photographers in Limerick to witness an attempt to fly across the Atlantic from Bawnmore in Limerick to America,” said Prendergast.

“The plane which was due to take off ditched off the Welsh coast so the event couldn’t take place but it brought a huge press corps in Limerick who reported it all over the English-speaking world.”

Military crackdown

The documentary, which Frameworks Films made with the support of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions, traces the setting up of the soviet in response to a military crackdown by the British Forces.

Mike McNamara of the LCTU, who is one of a number of narrators in the documentary, explained that the British decided to impose martial law after the killing of an RIC Constable, Mark O’Brien.

Constable O’Brien was shot when he tried to foil an attempt by the local brigade of the IRA to free IRA man Robert Byrne from a hospital where he was being treated after going on hunger strike.

“The British military authorities declared Limerick was a special military area under the Defence of the Realm Act where people had to apply for passes to go to work and that was the catalyst.

“That’s when the Limerick Trades Council declared a general strike and for two weeks the strike committee ran the city even going so far as to issuing their own currency,” said Mr McNamara.

Another contributor, author Liam Cahill revealed it was The Irish Times who dubbed the strike “a soviet” and warned it was an attempt to emulate what had happened in Bolshevik Russia.

Warning

“The term ‘Soviet’ was first given to it by The Irish Times and it wasn’t intended as a compliment but as warning that this was the same type of events as seen in Russia and Bavaria,” said Mr Cahill.

For further information on the film, which was screened at the Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork over the weekend and is available on DVD, email info@frameworksfilms.com.