The Limerick Soviet
A workers' rebellion in the Treaty city


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Invitation to be part of the Limerick Soviet 100 celebrations.

This is a call of the Limerick Soviet 100 Committee which is constituted to commemorate, celebrate and learn the lessons of the Limerick Soviet which ran the city from April 5th to April 27th, 1919.

The Limerick Soviet in brief:

The Irish War of Independence was in full swing in April 1919. In Limerick, Robert Byrne, an IRA volunteer and delegate of the United Trades and Labour Council representing the Communications Workers Union was arrested and undertook a hunger strike in protest. On April 6th he was under arrest in hospital while being treated for the effects of hunger strike. The IRA attempted to affect his rescue and in the gun battle that ensued, one policeman was killed, another was injured and Robert Byrne was shot and died of his injuries later that same day. When this became known there was serious atmosphere of unrest in the city.

On April 9th the British Army responded by declaring the city a Special Military Area as of April 14th. The R.I.C (Royal Irish Constabulary) would require anyone entering or leaving the city to obtain and produce an RIC permit to do so as of April 14th. Troops and armoured vehicles were deployed to implement the decree. This decree would have meant that workers and citizenry, most of whom lived outside of the central area would be, in effect, under the entire control of the RIC and the British Military, to work and go about their everyday lives.

On Sunday April13th the United Trades and Labour Council called a general strike, calling on people not to seek such permits from the RIC and declaring that as of April 15th the strike committee would run the city. Influenced by the experience of the 1913 Dublin Lockout and the growing influence of the Russian Revolution the Committee declared itself a Soviet.

There were no RIC (police) permits sought, a boycott was in place against the British Army troops. The Soviet Committee took control of transport, food production and prices, publication of its own newspaper etc.  They printed the Limerick Soviet currency which was accepted by businesses and became, in effect the legal tender in the city.

Because of the fact that a Transatlantic air race was scheduled to take place from Bawnmore in the city there was an abundance of international journalists in town, particularly from Britain and the US. Great interest was taken in the Soviet and Committee members were interviewed and the Limerick Soviet became known all over the world. The strike committee continued to run the city until April 27th.

The Limerick Soviet Commemoration Committee was first formed in 1979 and has been active around commemoration and celebration of the Soviet on important anniversaries since, launching books and pamphlets, organising seminars, social and historical events and debates around the both the historical significance and the lessons to be learned in present day Trade Unionism and politics.

The great and good have no great interest in examining and honouring the ideals behind the Limerick Soviet. As such, the people involved have been historians, trade unionists, artists and left wing political activists.

Limerick Soviet 100:

We believe that the hundredth anniversary of the Limerick Soviet should be marked as part of the examination of the events that were important to Ireland and internationally in the early decades of the 20th century. In the context of the present political situation, with the rise of right wing and Left people-driven movements, the Limerick Soviet (and other similar movements) and in particular the forces and events that led to the ending of the Soviet have lessons to teach political and historical movements and individuals. For that reason, we want to make the remembrance and celebration of the Soviet a major festival of events in Limerick in 2109.

As a small group with very limited resources we are reaching out to cultural, trade union, political, governmental individuals and organisations and putting out, by way of this letter, a call for expressions of interest in events for such a festival.

Our aim is to have a number of events in April 2019 but also to integrate the issue into other events across the entire year. We would like to organise the festival along the following lines, with some or all of the below as possibilities:

Cultural :

- Organise musical events in celebration of workers movements in Ireland, Britain and worldwide

- Other cultural events. Theatre, sketch etc. A member of our Committee, a well-known playwright, has gained Arts Council Funding to write a play about the subject. We would hope to find funding to produce same.

- Trade Union bands

Promote competitions for:

- A piece of music to celebrate the Soviet

- Art, public art for the city

We are seeking your suggestions and involvement in any of this that may be of interest to you.

Historical Lectures, discussion and events.

Political:

We intend to organise events with major political and economist figures to discuss the political world as is from a left point of view, what is going on and how workers, artists, economists, politicians, trade unions can engage and can learn the lessons of historical movements and events.

The purpose of this letter is to seek expressions of interest from people and organisations with an interest in helping us to organise this. Would you be interested in taking part in this festival? We are in no way proscribed as to what groups might want to do at this stage within the general ideas outlined above and are very open to ideas.

Having said that it is important that we begin to make concrete plans so we would really appreciate an initial response from you as 18 months is not a lengthy lead in time!

Funding:

As the type of committee we have described ourselves above, you will understand that we are without funds. In the past we have managed to put on quite successful events on a shoestring but major funding will be required if we are to put this vision in place. It is our intention to seek funding from local and national government and a wide range of other organisations. We may well be coming back to you/your organisation on this matter in the near future seeking financial support or ideas on how we can co-operate with you to put on events.

We appreciate your consideration of this proposal and look forward to an early response.

Sincerely,
 

Mary O Donnell
                                              

Mary O Donnell                                                                                 

Secretary

limericksoviet100@gmail.com

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