On Thursday, Dec 4th, all the Dublin and many of the British newspapers were devoting their leading articles and a good deal of their space to what they described as "Hopes of Peace in Dublin." These organs of capitalist opinion were describing in their best styles how the Christmas Dove of Peace was about to settle down upon our desolate city, and how all minds were now attuned to the possibility of a settlement before the coming of the day of Christian rejoicing. They also told us that it was the duty of all sincerely interested in the welfare of the city to carefully avoid anything that might tend to accentuate the bitterness now existing, or prevent the due ripening of the fruit of peace.
All this was of course highly edifying, and no doubt the Dublin public thanked its stars that at long last the spirit of sweet reasonableness was finding a resting place among the employers of Dublin. But meanwhile events not known to the public were happening elsewhere. The tale of those events will make an interesting supplement - a Christmas supplement - to the tale of the pacific chorus of the Dublin Press.
There is in Dublin a company known as the Merchants' Warehousing Company. In connection with its business this company possessed a piece of waste land near the docks. Some seven years ago this company saw an opportunity to combine the functions of landlord and capitalist, and accordingly proceeded to erect what it pleased to call "houses" on the waste ground in question. These houses consist mostly of three rooms - two bedrooms and a kitchen. The bedrooms are six feet by six, and the kitchen of somewhat similar magnificent proportions. For these mansions the rental charged was 3s 6d per week. When the scheme was completed and the waste ground was ornamented, or encumbered, by the mansions in question, nobody wished to enter into them as they did not appeal to the aesthetic views of the Dublin labourer, the said labourer having a fixed belief that the floor space of a small or medium sized room is not made more useful or more spacious by erecting two partitions across it, and giving the name and character of a three-roomed house to the one room thus divided.
But this company got over this prejudice on the part of the Dublin labourer by issuing an order that their employees must vacate their own apartments in other parts of the city, and come and take possession of the houses of the Merchants' Warehousing Company at the usual rental. Thus the company killed two birds with the one stone. It secured tenants, and it strengthened its hold over its workpeople, who were made to feel that if theyleft their jobs they would lose the shelter over the heads of their families. It must also be remembered that no matter how long a service the employee had with the company he was told that he must become a tenant of the company, or lose his job. Thus the road in question, although officially known as Merchants' Road, is more popularly known by the name of Compulsory Avenue.
When the present fight developed, the Company necessarily got involved, as it deals with all the Merchants in the Port. Necessarily also the status of the employees as tenants of the Company was also affected. Eventually ejectment notices were served upon sixty tenants by the Merchants' Warehousing Company. These tenants had, as employees, refused to sign the objectionable agreement striven to be enforced upon them by the Masters' Association.
So it came to pass, on December 4th in the year of our Lord 1913, when all the Press was drawing the public attention to the fluttering of the wings of the Dove of Peace that sixty families were evicted from their homes by this company. It was, as our readers will remember, a cold, drizzling, miserable day, but the bailiffs and the bullies of the law had to do their dirty work. Out on the streets the families were thrown, their few sticks of furniture were scattered recklessly about, children and women left to stand and shiver in the cold, or hunt a home elsewhere.
This outrage was intended to frighten its victims, and to make them cry out for mercy. But it did neither. The women and children jeered at the bailiffs and policemen; the women and children got mouth-organs and danced reels and jigs on the streets; the women and children hurrahed and cheered for Larkin and the Transport Union.
Think of it! On the twelfth week of the fight, in the midst of rain and cold, and in despite of eviction the women and children of the Dublin labourers sang and laughed; confident of victory and ready to suffer for the cause they cheered for their Union and its leader.
My smug, self-satisfied, well-fed friends, have we not a right to be proud of those women and children? Aye, if you valued and understood the higher spiritual elements that go to make possible the advance of the race to higher levels would you not also be proud that the so-called "lower class" of your city had shown themselves possessed of such capabilities of sacrifice for an ideal?
Meanwhile, let us remember: First, that when Archbishop Walsh published his first letter appealing for peace the employers answered him by the importation on the following day of 200 free labourers.
Second, that when his second appeal was followed by a visit of the English Labour delegates, bent on securing an honourable settlement, and when all Dublin was praying for a Christmas peace, the employers again answered by the eviction from their homes of sixty Dublin workmen with their wives and families.
Has not someone said: Whom the gods wish to destroy they first drive mad.
Republished in Red Banner, No. 4 (PO Box 6587, Dublin 6).