William O’Brien (1881-1968)

Criticism


Life
b. Ballygurteen, Conakilty, Co. Cork; ed. Christian Brothers, Dungarvin, and Carrick-on-Suir; moved with family to Dublin, 1897; joined Irish Socialist Republican Party, 1898; close friend and associate of James Connolly; Chairman of Amalgamated Society of Tailors, 1904; fndr-mbr. United Socialist Party; helped establish Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, 1909; appt. full-time secretary, 1909-46 organised committee that secured Connolly’s return from America, 1910;
 
served on Executive of Dublin Trades Council, 1913; elected President, 1914; fndr-mbr. ITGWU; secretary of Lock-Out Strike organising committee, 1913; imprisoned; mbr. Irish Neutrality League, and Anti-Conscription Committee, 1915; interned in 1916; gen. sec. of Labour Party during War of Independence; gave ‘unofficial’ assistance to IRA, imprisoned Wormwood Scrubs, 1920, and released after hunger strike;
 
elected TD, Dublin South, 1922-23; Tipperary, June-Aug. 1927; financial sec. Labour Party, 1931-39; Chairman of Admin. Council, 1929-41; resisted Larkin’s attempt to gain control of Party on release from prison, and took him to court over his occupation of ITGWU headquarters, 1923; formed rival Congress of Irish Unions; TD Tipperary, 1937-38; retired from ITGWU at full term; 1946; d. 30 Oct., convalescent home, Bray; his papers are held at the National Library of Ireland (NLI). DIB DIH

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Criticism
Thomas J. Morrissey, S.J., William O'Brien, 1881-1968: Socialist, Republican, Dail Deputy, Trade Union Leader and Editor (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2007), 400pp.

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Quotations
Easter 1916: ‘When I arrived at Liberty Hall about 10 a.m. on Easter Monday, all was hustle and excitement. Large numbers of Volunteers and Citizen Army men were continually passing in and out. Quantities of ammunition boxes were being taken out of the premises and loaded into cars and trucks. Shortly before noon, Connolly came down the stairs and spoke to us on the landing. Putting his head close to mine, and dropping his voice he said, “We are going out to be slaughtered.” “Is there no chance of success?” I said, and he replied “None whatever”. (Labour in Easter Week, p.21; quoted in Léon Ó Bróin, Protestant Nationalists in Revolutionary Ireland, 1985, p.81.)

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Reference
His papers and some of his own journalism, e.g., ĎA Night in Mountjoy, 1914’, (rep. from Liberty 1961) - with note: ‘O’Brien was former gen. sec. of ITGWU’ - held as LO P115 in the National Library of Ireland (presented in 1967). Extracts from same are included in RICORSO under Cardinal Logue, Robert Lynd, W. B. Yeats, Alice Milligan, et al.

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