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Revolutionary whose great contribution to democracy was overlooked

I WATCHED with anticipation this week’s RTÉ programme in the series ‘Ireland’s Greatest’ because it was about James Connolly, the founder of the Labour Party.

Connolly’s ideas about Irish society and the values he believed should underpin our politics and economy are as relevant today as they were when he was alive.

However, I was taken aback that there was no reference during the programme to James Connolly’s role in founding the Labour Party and I ask why RTÉ would omit this historical fact? It was the Labour Party that James Connolly foresaw would put his ideas into practice in an Irish parliamentary democracy. When he proposed the motion that led to the founding of the party at the ICTU conference in the Town Hall, Clonmel, on May 27, 1912, he asked: “When the representatives of Ireland came to meet in the old historic building in Dublin, which they had heard so much about, were the workers to be the only class that was not to be represented?”

His answer to this question was that Irish workers should be represented in an Irish parliament by an Irish Labour Party. He persuaded his comrades in ICTU and the Labour party was established. Connolly was a member of the party executive when he was executed in 1916. In 2012, Labour will celebrate his initiative in 1912 in setting up the party. Let’s hope by then Connolly’s values will underpin the actions of a new government in its efforts to build a society based on equality and the solidarity of the Irish people.

Joanna Tuffy TD

Dáil Éireann

Dublin 2


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