Sunday, November 23rd, will be the forty-sixth anniversary of the execution in Manchester of Allen, Larkin and O'Brien.
On the night before these, our brothers, were hanged, a howling mob of the scum of that English city held orgy around the prison walls and made right hideous, as well as profaned, the last hours of The Three by the singing of indecent songs and the shouting of blasphemous insults at the faith of the Irish rebels who had dared to outrage the majesty of England. To that English mob the words "Irish Rebel" summed up everything hateful and odious. At these words their worst passions were aroused, and in their fury they behaved as only savages can behave when a gallant foe is stricken down. To work their passions up to that point the English Press exhausted every effort, and tapped every reservoir of vitriolic denunciation and callous slander. The English public responded to the call of the prostitutes of the Press with but few exceptions; one of these few, Ernest Jones, the great Chartist, took up the thankless task of defending the Irishmen, and thus completed a round of devotion to the cause of Ireland begun in the stormy days of the Young Irelanders.
But to the vast multitude - as to that howling mob desecrating the last hours of brave men by their ribald insults and loudmouthed indecency - the name of Irish rebel was like a red rag to a bull. Forty-six years ago!
Forty-six years after that outrage a gathering of the democracy of Manchester met together a few hundred yards away from the spot on which stood Salford Jail. This gathering was at least three times as large as that other mob of historic ill-fame. It was composed, not of the degraded slum population, but of intelligent, educated, self-respecting men and women - the flower of the Manchester working class.
Again, the centre of attraction was the presence of Irish rebels. But this gathering of the Manchester democracy roared out to these Irish rebels of our day a welcome and a promise - a welcome to them because they had dared and suffered for democracy; a promise to do likewise if the word was only given. To this latter-day gathering to be an Irish working class rebel - standing for all and more that the immortal three had stood for - was to possess a passport to their admiration and esteem. So much had education accomplished - so much and so far had the toilers of England progressed towards a realisation of their true position - realising at last that they are not citizens, but helots and slaves of an Empire.
Are we saying too much when we say that this welcome accorded last Sunday to Larkin and to Connolly at these magnificent gatherings of over 25,000 people went far to wipe out the bad memories of the past, and to make it more possible for the two democracies to understand each other - and understanding, to co-operate together in the march of their own class emancipation?
On Sunday there will be a procession through the streets of Dublin to commemorate that martyrdom. We trust that every member of the Transport Union and its sister organisation, the Irish Women Workers' Union, will be in their allotted place in that procession. No excuse can be taken for absence. There are bodies allotted places in that procession whose every public act is a negation of what the Fenians stood for, but no murmur should be allowed against the desecration of their presence. At other times and other places, that question must be raised. But upon that day let our reproach be the reproach of our silence in their presence.
It is our duty to show the world that neither the friendship of the English nor their hatred can turn the Irish democracy from their resolve to win for their country her right to be a free and independent Nation enjoying a true Republican freedom.
The architects of that freedom will and must be the Irish working class. Ours is the task to prepare them. While that preparation is going forward we must take our place in every good and wise movement for the upholding of the highest ideals born of the age-long struggle of our people.
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.