Larkin's Labour Of Love
Sir, - Unless the Dublin Metropolitan Police were to have joined the rioters, the baton-charge in O'Connell street on Sunday, August 31st 1913 was inevitable - but "infamous"? (Dermot Keogh, Weekend, November 18th).
The Dublin Disturbances Commission listed 30 strikes between January and mid-August. There were no fewer than 15 riots in three weeks; some of these "had their origin in organised attacks on the police".
Spoiling for a fight, Larkin taunted the badly-paid constables. They were not "worth their salt . . . If I was doing dirty work, I would expect dirty pay." The employers had boasted they would "beat Larkin . . . By the living God, if they want war they can have it . . . We will meet in O'Connell street and if the police and soldiers stop the meeting let them take the responsibility."
On Saturday, August 30th, Supt Fergus Quinn, Store Street, obtained a warrant for the arrest of Larkin, who was traced to the Rathmines home of Countess Markievicz. The house was watched, but apparently no effort was made to execute the warrant. It is said that Larkin escaped undetected under cover of a party organised by the Countess to cover his retreat.
In the certain belief that the firebrand would turn up in O'Connell street, did the authorities decide to humiliate him with a public execution, whatever the consequences?
The trouble on Sunday morning started when stones were thrown by a section of the crowd. When the order was given to draw batons, the stonethrowers scattered, mingling with innocent people coming from last Mass in the Pro-Cathedral. The panic-stricken crowd fled into Prince's Street, meeting the constables on duty at the Independent dispatch department, they turned back. It must have seemed to the main body of police that the troublemakers were returning to the fray in a counter-attack. It was all confusion and bloody mayhem. But for the battle-weary police, from a respected historian, the badge of infamy?
The DMP never recovered its morale. But the lessons were well remembered. Confronting the H-block protesters at Ballsbridge on July 18th, 1981, Chief Supt John Robinson and his gardai stood their ground under a hail of missiles. The Minister for Justice in a native Irish Government, Jim Mitchell, "showed a striking sureness of touch in handling an ugly situation". (J.J. Lee, p.507). - Yours, etc.,
Gregory Allen, Upper Kilmacud Road, Blackrock, Co Dublin.