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The Limerick Soviet
A workers' rebellion in the Treaty city



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Limerick  Soviet Sites Bus Tour April 2014
Our thanks to Munster Images for the photos

On Sunday, April 6th, 2014, the Limerick Council of Trade Unions organised a bus tour of the locations associated with the Limerick Soviet of 1919.  The coach was packed and the event was very informative and enjoyable.

Frank Prendergast outlines the story of the Soviet

Mike McNamara, President of the Council of Trade Unions acting as MC

Telling the story at St Camillus Hospital (originally the Limerick Workhouse)

At St Camillus Hospital grounds Pat O'Connor reads from Liam Cahill's
'The Forgotten Revolution'

Mike Finn reads a historical document from the Limerick Soviet outside Limerick Prison

Visit to some graves of those involved in the Limerick Soviet.

Frank McDonnell of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions
lays a wreath at the grave of Bobby Byrnes

Shane O'Ceallaigh of Sinn Fein, a candidate in the May Local Elections,
addresses the crowd  at the grave of Bobby Byrne

Mike McNamara, Shane O'Ceallaigh and Cllr Maurice Quinlivan

Mike at the grave of James Casey,
treasurer to the Limerick Soviet,
subsequently a Labour councillor who served as Deputy Mayor in 1921

Mike McNamara points out the grave of Ben Dineen,
editor of the original Bottom Dog workers paper

Grave of Robert Byrne

Mike McNamara, President of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions at the grave of Robert Byrnes, the man whose death sparked the Limerick Soviet in 1919.  In the sketch below of Mount St Laurence Graveyard the location of the grave is shown.  More later.


 Robert Byrne Park is officially opened May 29, 2009

Robert Byrne Park, Limerick, Ireland

Limerick City Manger, Mr Mackey, Mayor John Gilligan and Mike McNamara, President of the Limerick  Council of Trade Unions at the unveiling of the plaque commemorating the Limerick Soviet.  The plaque stands on the new Riverside Park which was officially opened as Robert Byrne Park by the Mayor.   It was the death of Robert Byrne in April 1919 that sparked the events known as the Limerick Soviet.  The opening was attended by relatives of Robert Byrne, Trade Union leaders and local and national politicians (some of whom looked rather uncomfortable but there were elections on!!!)

Mayor John Gilligan is to be congratulated on ensuring that the memory of the Limerick Soviet is preserved in the shape of this lovely park which will be used by the people of Limerick for many years to come.

Flags flying high over Robert Byrne Park at the official opening

Mayor Gilligan addresses the crowd in the Marquee nearby


On the left Mayor John Gilligan points out that this event was the highlight of his term in office while on the right former Labour TD and historian, Frank Prendergast gives an excellent keynote speech recounting the nature of the times in which the Limerick Soviet took place.

Mary O'Donnell, SIPTU union official and Mary Guilfoyle who worked in different ways to highlight the 90th anniversary of the Limerick Soviet


Mike McNamara and Seoirse Clancy



Helen Clancy and her son George  while  on the right Labour Party TD Jan O'Sullivan


Permanent display of Limerick Soviet material

Limerick Museum

Report on the Limerick Soviet 90th. Anniversary
Commemorations (2009) by Pat O'Connor.

The Limerick Soviet Commemoration Committee organised a series of activities with prominent speakers over the weekend April 17 - April 19.

The activities commenced with the launch by Mike Mc Namara, President of the Limerick Trades Council of the fourth edition of D.R. O'Connor, Lysaght's Story of the Limerick Soviet. O'Connor Lysaght, a Dublin historian, compared the two weeks of the self government and resistance to British militarism as similar to the early days of the 1871 Paris Commune.

In his foreword to the 4th. edition, Mayor Gilligan announced his intention to open the Robert Byrne Curragower Park in Clancy Strand in May. Robert Byrne's attempted rescue from the City Home and fatal shooting led to the imposition of martial law in Limerick in April 1919.

On Saturday April 18th. the Hunt Museum played host to a seminar on the theme , The Limerick Soviet 90 years on. Liam Cahill, broadcaster and author of Forgotten Revolution, reminded the audience that on April 18th. 1919, Good Friday, the Limerick Soviet was at its peak. The workers of Limerick governed the city through its democratic organisations. Nothing could move in or out without the permission of the Limerick Council of Trade Unions, flagrantly resisting the attempts by the British Military to impose their Local Pass on the citizens.

Jack O'Connor, General President of SIPTU used the forum to call for a Social Dividend from the Government and Employers in the talks that were due to resume on Wednesday 22nd. April. He also cited the case of an employee of SR Technics, who after 45 years service with the company was told that his pension was worthless. He went on to call on the Government to offer a multi billion Euro plan to protect private worker pensions, if the talks were not to collapse.

Mary O'Donnell of the Limerick Soviet Commemoration Committee introduces Jack O'Connor, President of SIPTU and Liam Cahill, author of the Forgotten Revolution at the Seminar
at the Hunt Museum

Liam Cahill and Jack O'Connor

Austin Harney, a fulltime public sector union official travelled from London especially to present fraternal greetings to the Limerick Soviet Committee. Jan O'Sullivan, Labour TD and Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Féin local election candidate and Alan Kelly, Munster candidate  for Labour in the European elections also attended the meeting.

The weekend festivities concluded on Sunday April 19th. with a Workers Walk through the city scenes of the Soviet. Local historian, Dominic Haugh who has chosen the subject for his PhD, conducted the highly informative tour. His detailed account of the rescue of Robert Byrne from what is now St. Camillus Hospital was a revelation, even to long time students of the Soviet. Present on the walk was Jack Hennessy, grandson of James Casey who acted as treasurer to the Limerick Soviet. James Casey, a Labour councillor, served as Deputy Mayor in 1921 after the murder of Mayor Clancy. He was to serve as Mayor of Limerick from 1934 to 1936.

James Casey

At its conclusion, the City Museum was opened especially for the participants, who then adjourned to nearby Katy Daly's for Ceol agus Craic!

Mike Finn reading the proclamation on the Workers Walk

May Day Reception at City Hall marks 90th Anniversary

On Friday May 1st., Mayor Gilligan hosted a reception for the Limerick Council of Trade Unions to mark the 90th. anniversary of the Limerick Soviet.

Trades Council members, old and new, attended the evening reception. The President of the Trades Council, Mike Mc Namara of BATU, addressed the gathering. He complimented the mayor on his role in celebrating the Soviet as well as the Soviet Commemoration Committee on its series of activities. The mayor also addressed the attendance on the importance of May Day.

Pádraig Malone as director of the Resource Centre spoke of its role in the present economic climate as well as remembering the work of the late Mary Kehilly in both the Trades Council and the Unemployed Centre.

Former mayor and TD Frank Prendergast was also in attendance and spoke of the importance of commemorating historical events in the Labour Movement.

Jack Hennessy, grandson of former mayor and Limerick Soviet treasurer brought along old newspaper articles on his grandfather's succession to the murdered Mayor Clancy.

It was a memorable evening of celebration, which fittingly commemorated Mayday in City Hall. As the celebrations drew to a conclusion the melodic strains of ballads remembering past struggles and icons such as Joe Hill, James Connolly and James Larkin rang out through the halls of the Mayoral Suite!

Our thanks to all who supported our efforts to ensure that the 90th anniversary of the Limerick Soviet was commemorated with an appropriate programme of events. Among our benefactors were ...
The Mandate Trade Union
Sinn Fein
Jan O'Sullivan TD

1999 Limerick Soviet Commemoration

In 1999, in Joe Harrington’s mayoralty, the 70th anniversary
was commemorated on a plaque on Thomond Bridge.


Soviet plaque taken down!

As part of the inner city renewal, Thomond Bridge was recently adorned with a series of new street lighting.  It represents a marked improvement on the 'old' ESB poles which proved to be really useful for an assortment of posters in the recent elections. 

However, one of the casualties of this welcome exercise was the plaque denoting the site of Thomond Bridge as a major British Army barricade during the Limerick Soviet.  Indeed the iconic picture of the barricade is a symbol of the 1919 struggle against British Militarism!  The plaque was unveiled by the then Socialist Mayor Joe Harrington as part of the Limerick Soviet Commemoration Committee's 'eighty years' celebration in April 1999.

 No doubt, the Limerick Civic Project has securely stored the plaque in a warehouse somewhere in the city.  The LSCC is confident that the plaque will be again displayed in the environs of Thomond Bridge where it has acted as a landmark for tourists and citizens alike for the past decade?

Possible alternative sites for the plaque.  Beside the Treaty Stone above or in
Robert Byrne
Park below

Launch of the fourth edition of
The Story...

The following is Mayor John Gilligan foreword to "The Story of the Limerick Soviet" by D.R. O'Connor Lysaght.

Left: Mayor John Gilligan and right Mike McNamara LCTU with D.R. O'Connor Lysaght

It is a great honour for me, as the 812th. Mayor of Limerick to be in the mayoralty on this the 90th. Anniversary of what became known as the Limerick Soviet.

"The Story of the Limerick Soviet" by D.R. O'Connor Lysaght, since its first publication in 1979 has been an ideal reference book for students and activists. The author, a frequent visitor to Limerick, has painstakingly recounted the day-by-day activities of this tumultuous fourteen-day period.

The attempted rescue of IRA prisoner and Post Office worker Robert Byrne in early April 1919 and his subsequent fatal shooting sparked off a series of events that could conceivably have changed the whole face of European history.

Indeed the presence in Limerick of the world press to cover the weather hit trans Atlantic crossing brought these historic events to a global audience. For two weeks the workers organisations in Limerick ran the city as the British found that its writ did not run in this corner of what was then the United Kingdom!

These stirring events occurred while Europe was coming out of the Great War and the Soviet Union was barely in its infancy.

In my generation's education we were told very little of the role that workers played. I am very pleased to note that the inspiring past of the workers stuggles in our city has been faithfully recounted over the last three decades in the pages of this excellent booklet, the fourth edition of which I am proud to be associated.

I look forward to commemorating the Limerick Soviet in various events throughout the year. I am indeed proud that my mayoralty will mark the occasion with the unveiling of the Robert Byrne Curragower Park on Clancy Strand.

Fifth edition now available Click here

The Limerick Soviet 95th Anniversary Commemoration Committee
 Some of the members of the Committee are pictured below.

Aileen Dillane, Jim McNamara, Ciaran McNamee, Mary O'Donnell
and Pat O'Connor

Brian Higgins and Gerry Kirby

Mike Finn, Padraig Malone and Joe Harrington