Union to back film about Irish rebel

Ireland’s largest trade union is to help fund a film about one of the rebels executed following the uprising against British rule in 1916, it announced today.

SIPTU will support the movie about James Connolly, a union leader, who commanded the Republican headquarters at the GPO in Dublin during the Easter Rising.

A badly injured Connolly – the then Acting General Secretary of SIPTU’s predecessor, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union – was strapped to a chair and executed by a British Army firing squad 90 years ago today.

The film starring Scottish actor Peter Mullan as Connolly and Patrick Bergin as his co-founder of the Irish Labour Party, James Larkin, will be directed by Adrian Dunbar and produced by Rascal Films.

SIPTU’s National Executive Council said the exact size of its investment would be determined after further meetings with the producers.

The union’s General Secretary Joe O’Flynn made the announcement at a ceremony to mark the 90th anniversary of Connolly’s death on May 12, 1916.

“James Connolly was passionately committed to organising workers,” he said.

“The cause of labour is the cause of Ireland,” he wrote. “The cause of Ireland is the cause of labour. They cannot be dissevered.”

Connolly is revered in Ireland as one of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of Independence and one of the founders of the Republic.

He famously told followers the odds were a thousand to one against them as he led a few hundred rebels into battle against thousands of British troops.

After being badly wounded during the fighting, Connolly was court-martialled and taken by ambulance to Kilmainham Prison where he was carried on a stretcher to a courtyard, tied to a chair and shot by a firing squad.

Mr O’Flynn said Connolly and his colleagues in the Irish Citizen Army were prepared to lay down their lives for the freedom of the Irish people and workers.

“Today we acknowledge his sacrifice. We reflect on his legacy – the vision of a people free from want, free from impoverishment and free from exploitation,” he said.

“And as we recognise that major social deficits continue amid this unprecedented economic boom, we rededicate ourselves to work for the elimination of exploitation by organising workers to stand together to assert their rights to share fully in the fruits of this prosperity.”

Despite its military failure, the Easter Rising is seen as a significant stepping-stone to the eventual creation of the Irish Republic.

Surviving officers of the uprising went on to organise the Irish War of Independence from 1919-1921 which resulted in the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 and independence for 26 of Ireland’s 32 counties.

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