At the time of the foundation of the Labour Party 100 years ago, the death rate in Dublin was the highest of any city in Europe and higher than Calcutta, former tánaiste and Labour leader Dick Spring said tonight.
He was delivering a lecture at the Glasnevin Museum in Dublin to mark the centenary of James Connolly’s motion, passed by the Irish Trades Union Congress 100 years ago this month, to establish an Irish Labour Party.
I attended at the invitation of the Irish Government with fellow Posse Comitatus member George Newell, Erskine and Sally Holmes of the former Northern Ireland Labour Party and Sandra Baillie of the Ullans Academy. Erskine is also a Trustee of the Somme Association.
Mr Spring pointed out that emigration was also rampant at the time, and that 345,000 people had left the island of Ireland in the previous decade. These were the conditions in which Connolly took his political initiative.
“Connolly was acutely aware of the imminence of Home Rule,” Mr Spring said. “He posed the question, ‘When the representatives of Ireland came to meet in the old historic building in Dublin [College Green] were the workers to be the only class that was not to be represented?’.”
The motion which led to the foundation of the Labour Party was put forward by Connolly at the ITUC annual meeting in Clonmel, Co Tipperary , on May 28th, 1912.
Mr Spring pointed out that 13 deceased Labour members of the Dáil and Seanad were interred in Glasnevin, “one of the jewels in the crown of the State”.
The attendance included Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore as well as Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs, Jimmy Deenihan, former Labour minister for health Barry Desmond and former Fianna Fáil minister of state Martin Mansergh.
The lecture was part of the official series to mark the series of centenary commemorations and was hosted by the Glasnevin Trust under chairman John Green at the request of Mr Deenihan.
Richard “Dick” Spring (born 29 August 1950) is an Irish businessman and former politician. He was first elected as a Labour Party Teacha Dála (TD) in 1981 and retained his seat until 2002. He became leader of the Labour Party in 1982, and held this position until 1997. He served as Minister for the Environment (1982–1983), Minister for Energy (1983–1987) and Minister for Foreign Affairs (1993–November 1994, December 1994–1997). He also served as Tánaiste during those three governments and was the leader of the Irish delegation in the Talks which led to the Good Friday Agreement.He was the first Irish Minister to visit the Somme Heritage Centre.