In the name of Rosie

 

All bridges are important, even more so in urban areas. They change the pattern of movement in a city, promoting trade in previously obscure areas and facilitating the simple pleasures of serendipity. So what we call them is important too. This explains why so many people – some 18,000, all told – participated in the public consultation initiated by Dublin City Council to find a name for the new bridge which will link Marlborough Street with Hawkins Street and ultimately carry the Luas Cross City line’s southbound track.

A vigorous Facebook campaign led by members of Labour Youth to have the bridge named after trade union activist Rosie Hackett played a major role in persuading the council to give her this signal honour. Apart from her involvement in the 1913 Lockout and the Irish Citizen Army, one of the campaign’s key selling points was that not a single bridge on the city stretch of the River Liffey is named in honour of a woman – even though the river itself has long been depicted as female, Joyce’s Anna Livia Plurabelle.

But unlike Samuel Beckett, James Joyce and Sean O’Casey – whose names were attached to three other new Liffey bridges – Rosie Hackett was barely known. Born in Dublin in 1892, she joined the Irish Transport and General Workers Union when it was set up in 1909 and led a strike at Jacobs biscuit factory that resulted in a modest pay rise for 3,000 women. As well as being actively involved in the 1913 Lockout, Hackett took part in the 1916 Rising alongside Constance Markievicz.

The Abbey Theatre, which lobbied to have the bridge named after it, was gracious in defeat. Its director, Fiach MacConghail, congratulated those who had worked so tirelessly on Rosie Hackett’s behalf. “It is great to see a woman’s name over the River Liffey and it’s particularly significant this year given Rosie Hackett’s close association with the 1913 Lockout,” he said, adding that Abbey actress Helena Maloney was a colleague of Hackett’s in the Irish Women Worker’s Union.