I am referring of course to the 1913 lockout. In many respects, 1913 was our miners’ strike. The difference of course, being that unlike the latter, no significant players from that period in our history survive today. Perhaps it is in this context that there seems to be a bizarre attempt to sanitise the reputation of one of the central villains of that piece. I refer of course, to William Martin Murphy.
William Martin Murphy was the owner of a newspaper and a major tram company and was a central figure in the Dublin lockout, where thousands of Irish workers were “locked out”, sacked effectively, for trade union membership. His abhorrent actions in seeking to blatantly deny rights we take as granted today, caused untold hardship in the Ireland of his time. Furthermore, we should ask ourselves, how many ordinary working-class Irishmen lay today in unmarked graves after being used as cannon fodder in the First World War, out of sheer economic necessity?
It is when looking at this shameful and shady history that I find myself more than a little perplexed at the decision to commemorate Murphy’s links to Castletownbere as part of the Heritage Week festivities in the town.
Now, while at one level, I have no difficulty with local historians acknowledging the birthplace of a figure of historical significance, to do so without giving adequate voice to the disdain in which this man is rightly regarded today, would be a huge blunder in my view. I mean could we today, envisage a situation where in 100 years, we actually commemorate the key players in Anglo Irish Bank and elsewhere who caused this recession? It is utterly unimaginable that this could occur.
Yet, that is exactly what is being done for a man whose actions were arguably worse than anything these men of our generation have done. William Martin Murphy should be remembered. He has to be. He has to be because to forget the utter devastation that this man wreaked on ordinary working-class families 100 years ago would be a grievous insult to the memories of his victims. Perhaps when those who will be “commemorating” him meet next Wednesday, they should take this into account.