The fight of the employees of the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company against the attempt of that company to reduce them below the level of their fellow-workers has produced some very interesting developments.
Late last week this office was honoured by a visit from a representative of the Irish Party in the person of a gentleman who most pompously announced himself as "Mr Esmonde, MP". No one in Liberty Hall seeming very much impressed by this title the young man proceeded to unload himself of a large and varied assortment of threats as to what the Government and the Irish Party were going to do to the Transport Union. As he expressed it, they would "wage war" upon us. Being told not too politely that he and the Government and the Irish Party could take themselves to a climate warmer than the Dardanelles or Flanders, the young gentleman (who, although an officer in the British Army, has no desire to go to any of the places specified or hinted at), looked a little pained and displeased, and suggested arbitration under the Munitions Act. He was then informed that there was nothing to arbitrate about.
That every other company on the quays were paying at least as high, and some higher than the company involved, and it would have to pay the same.
Here followed another explosion of wrath, and some more threats, and eventually it was hinted to "Mr Esmonde, MP" that his room was preferable to his company. To go - and he goed. He was a nice young man for an old maid's tea party, no doubt, but the most insufferable coxcomb that ever the wind blew into this office. There are queer things comes up with the tide, and certainly he was one of the quarest.
We can well imagine how those old Parliamentary hands, Joe Devlin and J.D. Nugent, winked at each other behind his back when they sent him off to an interview at Liberty Hall.
Following the interview we had telephone messages from the Lord Mayor of Dublin on the same subject. His Lordship got from this office the courteous answer any gentleman gets here to a message courteously put, and was a welcome change to the manners of our former interviewers. But, of course, although we were interested to learn that we were the subject of Conference at the Viceregal Lodge and at Dublin Castle we still could not see that there was anything to arbitrate.
We were informed too that the Admiralty proposed taking the boats and using them as transports.
Well, the Admiralty has a legal right to take any boats it wants, but we hold that to take a boat that is involved in a strike, and pay the owners of that boat for its use during that strike is equal to assisting the company against the men. It is paying Government money to keep the owners from losing by the suspension of their business. It is like paying strike pay to the owners, and takes out of the hands of the men the only weapon they possess, viz, their power to inflict loss upon their late employer. Such an action by the British Government in a Dublin dispute could only be interpreted as an act of war upon Labour, and we would have no alternative but accept it in that light.
It would, we repeat, mean war.
We are going to win this fight. We are not going to allow Sir William Watson, William Martin Murphy, nor the British Government to single out any body of workers for attack and destruction. We know that the destruction of that body of workers would mean an instant attack all along the line upon organised Labour in Dublin, and to prevent that destruction and avert that attack we will fight with "all the resources of civilization".
Republished in James Connolly: Lost Writings, (ed. Aindrias Ó Cathasaigh), Pluto Press 1997.