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
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
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
- Organise musical
events in celebration of workers movements in Ireland, Britain and
- 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
- A piece of music to
celebrate the Soviet
- Art, public art for
We are seeking your
suggestions and involvement in any of this that may be of interest to
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!
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.
Mary O Donnell
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