Connolly, James

▪ Irish labour leader
born June 5, 1868, Edinburgh
died May 12, 1916, Dublin

      first major Marxist union leader in Ireland, who was decisive in bringing about the Easter Rising (April 24–29, 1916) in Dublin against British rule.

      In 1896, soon after his arrival in Dublin, Connolly helped found the Irish Socialist Republican Party. From 1903 to 1910 he lived in New York City; while in the United States, he helped to organize the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW; “Wobblies”). At Clonmel, County Tipperary, in 1912, he and James Larkin founded the Irish Labour Party. He was Larkin's chief assistant in organizing the Irish National Transport and General Workers' Union, which conducted sympathy strikes in support of other labour disputes. In 1913 the Dublin industrialists instituted a lockout against members of the union and caused the resulting labour demonstrations to be brutally suppressed. At that time Connolly became commander of an irregular Citizen Army. On the outbreak of World War I (August 1914), he replaced Larkin (who was in the United States) as head of the union. Asserting that peace could be secured only through the fall of the capitalist states, he committed the Irish labour movement to opposing the Allied war effort.

      Connolly's reckless desire for an immediate revolt in Dublin threatened to interfere with the plan of the Irish Republican Brotherhood for an insurrection on Easter Sunday, April 23, 1916. The plan miscarried at the last moment and might have been dropped entirely if not for Connolly's insistence that some attempt be made, however hopeless. He and the poet Joseph Plunkett plotted the final details of the rising. On Easter Monday the revolutionaries captured the General Post Office, Dublin, where the Irish Republic was proclaimed. After the rising had been crushed with extreme violence, Connolly, severely wounded and suffering from gangrene, was propped up in a chair and shot by a British firing squad.

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Universalium. 2010.

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