May 28th, 1912
FROM THE ARCHIVES:The 19th annual conference of the Irish Trade Union Congress in Clonmel in 1912 debated the motion that set up the Labour Party in preparation for Home Rule.
– JOE JOYCE
MR. JAMES Connolly (Belfast) proposed the following resolution:– That the independent representation of Labour upon all public bodies be, and is, hereby, included amongst the objects of this Congress; that one day at least be hereafter set apart at our annual gathering for the discussion of all questions pertaining thereto; that the affiliated bodies be asked to levy on their member 1s. [shilling] per annum for the expenses, and that the Parliamentary Committee be instructed to take all action to give effect politically to this resolution.
He said that the way in which Ireland was treated in regard to such questions as the feeding of necessitous school children, and the medical benefits under the Insurance Act [from which Ireland was excluded] showed the necessity for passing the resolution. So far labour in Ireland had no means of expressing itself politically. The resolution was intended to make labour strong in Ireland.
They could not blink their eyes to the fact that when the proposed change in Irish Government came about there would be a disruption of the old parties, and when the new groupings took place, where would the working classes stand?
Were they going to be the only class unrepresented in Parliament? Were they going to tack themselves on to some political part of their masters, in order that they might swell the fortunes and help the ambitions of their employers? The years in which they would be waiting for Home Rule should synchronise with the preparation of labour for Home Rule. (Applause.)
Mr. [James] Larkin said that by carrying out the terms of the resolution they would get a lever to do their own work. They were not humbugged by people who told them that Home Rule was going to bring about the millennium. It would give them an opportunity to express themselves.
Mr. Rimmer (Dublin) said that he would have to remain neutral on the question, as the members of his society, the Amalgamated Society of Railways Servants, were forbidden to take part in connection with projects to forward political purposes.
Mr. Greig (Belfast) said that if the resolution was carried it was going to have a very disturbing effect on trades unionism, and it might lead to the shedding of members. They were going to ask members to take up questions upon which they were divided.
Mr. Campbell (Belfast) said he came instructed to support the resolution. It had been thrown in their teeth that if they were men they would have their own representatives. They had proved that the Nationalist party would not look after their interests if there were stronger interests at work. They proved that the Unionist party paid little attention to their interests while they had also proved that the British Labour party would only help them on certain conditions.