Up to 80,000 people are expected to line Dublin’s main thoroughfare to mark the 100th anniversary of Ireland’s greatest industrial dispute.
And President Michael D Higgins, who will lead the commemoration of the 1913 Lockout on O’Connell Street, is expected to take part in a re-enactment of the events surrounding the historic Bloody Sunday.
Mr Higgins will lay a wreath by the statue of Jim Larkin – the trade union leader who led the landmark workers’ strike for better conditions.
After that, he is expected to remain as a “spectator” for a dramatisation of Larkin’s famous speech from a hotel window off O’Connell Street, his subsequent arrest and the riot that led to a police baton charge that resulted in more than 300 injuries.
“The president has indicated he is not going to leave after the wreath laying. He is going to come back and be one of the participants of the re-enactment,” said Sally Anne Kinahan of the Congress 1913 Lockout Commemoration Committee.
She said the president would be involved “as much as he can be”, while another organiser joked: “He’s not going to be leading the baton charge.”
The State commemoration on Saturday, which will be attended by a string of Government ministers including Minister for the Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, will also involve a minute’s silence and musical performances.
The Lockout commemoration will see O’Connell Street virtually closed to traffic.
Organisers, including Irish Congress of Trade Unions assistant general secretary Ms Kinahan, Siptu general secretary Joe O’Flynn and Lockout historian Padraig Yeates, have insisted city centre businesses will fare well despite this.
Local businesses previously argued that shutting the busy street to traffic during the commemoration – from 7am to 6pm – would result in a loss of trade on what they described as one of the busiest shopping days of the year.
Mr O’Flynn said these fears were “not well-founded” and that the event would actually attract more tourists and shoppers to O’Connell Street.
“These things don’t happen very often. The Dublin Lockout, more so than many other events that have led to the city being closed off, is about citizens of Dublin, the community of Dublin,” Ms Kinahan added.
The event will begin at midday on Saturday, with President Higgins due to arrive at 12.30pm.
Visitors are encouraged to arrive for 11.30am to get a good spot, however big screens will be erected.
Community celebrations, also attended by Mr Higgins, will take place from 2.15pm, including the re-enactment of Larkin’s speech and the baton charge.
“With the president being present, this is bringing communities and ordinary people right into the heart of the commemoration,” Mr Yeates said.
O’Connell Street will be open to pedestrians all day and shops will be open as normal.
Buses travelling through O’Connell Street will operate normally most of the day, but will be diverted to Gardiner Street between 11am and 3pm.
Meanwhile, an exhibition launched last week, containing the record of Larkin’s arrest and a note he scribbled to activists before his detention, will run until March next year.
It reveals the experiences of those who lived through the Lockout, which saw drivers and conductors abandon their trams on Dublin’s busy O’Connell Street.
Their action eventually led to more than 20,000 workers being involved in strikes and lockouts until January 1914.