by Liam Cahill
This is a completely updated, revised and enlarged edition of my original book on the Limerick Soviet, published in 1990.
It is the Spring of 1919. The first shots are already fired in the Irish War of Independence and the separatist Dáil Éireann holds its first public session. In Limerick, Ireland’s fourth largest city, the workers and their representatives take over running the city and their action is declared a ‘Soviet’. The British authorities see it as a serious threat to their rule in Ireland.
The workers are protesting against a severe military law that requires them to get special passes and be checked going to and from work. The restrictions follow the IRA shooting of a policeman and wounding of another while rescuing a Republican hunger striker from hospital. He, too, is wounded and dies.
The workers control every aspect of life – production and distribution of food, opening and closing of shops, prices, transport. They publish their own newspaper and uniquely issue their own currency. Their initial success is built on a local alliance of Socialist, Republican and trade union forces, with the tacit support of Catholic clergy. However, when the workers seek a general strike, the national leaderships of these disparate groups are opposed and abandon them. The outcome is an honourable draw but the militant spirit of Limerick’s women and men inspires more than a hundred other soviets across Ireland in the revolutionary years 1919 to 1923.
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Date of Publication: 18/04/2019